By Sandy Hershelman
"You don’t manage people, you manage things. You lead
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
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
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
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.