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Sound Business Practices

Are You a Leader, a Manager. . .or Both?

By Sandy Hershelman

"You don’t manage people, you manage things. You lead people."
– Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, 1906–1992

It’s fascinating to watch the dynamics within an organization. Some people lead; some follow. Some manage well; many micromanage too well. Some people are leaders; some are managers. How about you? Are you a leader or a manager? There is a distinct difference between the two.

In a nutshell: Management is systems; leadership inspires people. To grow and prosper, companies need good management and great leaders.

Managers pretty much maintain the status quo. They are administrators. They plan, budget, organize, handle staffing, and control and solve problems. It’s much easier to teach management than leadership.

Leaders are the visionaries. They encourage change and establish a direction towards a long-term goal. They develop a team, motivating and inspiring others to be willing to follow them anywhere.

Leadership is all about change—and that can be tough for some. When you’re encouraging people to abandon old habits and try something new, you’re raising the bar—and that can be scary. Leaders, however, will dare to fail. They recognize that risk is just part of the game.

A good manager may be a leader. A good leader may be a manager. But not all of us are strong in both areas. You owe it to yourself, and your business, to know your strengths—and your weaknesses.

Do get to know your staff very, very well. Don’t be afraid to hire people who know more than you do. A wise business owner will surround himself with people, who are strong in the areas where he’s weak.

Just because you own your business doesn’t make you a leader. If you think you’re leading, and no one is following, then you’re just taking a walk. If you are not a natural leader, acknowledge the fact—at least to yourself. Then look around you: Your best manager may be a great leader, inspiring trust and confidence. Your employees will do anything for him. Make good use of that fact!

A person doesn’t necessarily choose to lead. He or she is often put in that position. People want success and they often recognize the natural leader among them. Groups are often more loyal to a leader than a manager. This can cause problems, if a natural leader works under a manager-type.

Even more problems may arise, if a “bad” leader—a destroyer—is in your employ. You know the types. Some can suck all of the positive energy out of a room with a single breath. Others are intentionally divisive, or sneaky back-stabbers. Such creatures must be dealt with before your organization starts a downward spiral. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Resources are usually limited in a small business. It’s even more crucial, then, to effectively manage dollars and people. Without deep pockets, you can’t afford to make mistakes. Learn to delegate. Get over the I-must-do-it-all-myself mentality. Educate your staff, value their input, and empower them to be an effective part of your team.
If you haven’t changed your tactics since you first opened your business 20 years ago, chances are what you’ve always done isn’t working nearly as well now, as it did in the 1980s. Changes in consumers’ tastes, social mores, history and technology have all tweaked the playing field.

Then again, if you don’t want your business to change and grow, you don’t have to worry much about solid leadership; effective management will do you just fine. You’ve also answered my original question—you are a manager, not a leader.

More business management articles. . .

© 2005 Sandy Hershelman. All rights reserved.



Date Last Modified:11/9/05
Copyright © 1999-2005 Sandy Hershelman. All rights reserved.