Leader or Boss?  The Difference Between Leading and Managing
We define a boss as someone who is in charge of a worker, a team, or an organization. Nothing derogatory about that. But when you think of being “bossed around” there’s a sense of being ordered to do things in an arbitrary and domineering manner with little to no input. When it comes to results, employee engagement, and influence, there is a big difference between leading and managing.

How do you think your team sees you and how do you want to be perceived?

The Main Difference Between Leading and Managing
In general, the difference between leading and managing comes down to how your team members think, feel, and act.  Based upon people manager assessment data, team members tend to follow their boss/manager’s orders because they feel like they have to due to organizational hierarchy and positional power.  But our leadership simulation assessment data tells us that team members tend to follow and give discretionary effort for a leader because they want to.

We know from employee engagement action plans, that leaders and managers behave differently around the issues of:

  • Trust
    Leaders trust that their team members will complete their jobs as needed and on time. Bosses/managers feel they have to constantly micromanage their team to make sure employees deliver as required. Which team do you think is more engaged?

    We know that the most effective leaders create psychological team safety and build a culture of high trust and mutual respect to support team performance and earn team members’ discretionary effort, loyalty, and longevity.

  • Development Opportunities
    Leaders believe in developing the skills and knowledge of their team because they want each team member to succeed personally and professionally. Leaders share what they know about the business and provide stretch assignments, targeted management development, and action learning leadership development opportunities for employees to learn and grow.

    Old school bosses/managers just issue orders without much context or desire to provide career development opportunities. As a result, their employees’ line of sight to the overall mission of the organization is unclear and their level of employee engagement suffers.

  • Communication and Compassion
    Effective leaders accept that they don’t know it all and seek out the thoughts and ideas of others. They know how to ask questions when they don’t know the answer, and they know how to listen. They establish a model of two-way communication that includes respect for diversity and strengthens decision-making.

    Bosses/managers, on the other hand, have big egos, are often insecure and are less interested in their workers’ opinions and even their wellbeing. Seldom do these bosses check in with their employees to learn how they’re doing or what suggestions they may have for improvement.

  • Coaching and Feedback
    High performing leaders are all about helping their employees grow and perform at their peak. They know how to give specific, timely, and encouraging feedback so that their workers are clear on expectations and desired behaviors. They know how to persuade others to work toward a collective goal.

    Bosses lack the self-awareness and empathy to coach or to put themselves in their workers’ shoes.  They feel like they can only rule by authority and are afraid to give credit to others.

  • Big Picture
    Top leaders keep their eye on and connect their employees to the big picture and future strategic priorities of the organization. They look around corners, plan ahead, and have an enterprise mindset that puts the good of the whole first. They can balance the urgent and important.

    Bosses are often only concerned with what happens day-to-day and can get mired in workplace politics that create disengagement.

The Bottom Line
We know from new manager training that managers must do more than coordinate resources to manage tasks and deliver results if they want a highly engaged team giving it their all. Smart managers act like leaders and strive to inspire, motivate, and influence those around them to perform at their peak.  Are you using action learning leadership development best practices to develop your next set of effective leaders?

To learn more about being the best leader and manager for your team, download The 6 Management Best Practices that Make the Difference Between Effective and Extraordinary

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