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How to tell if you’re a manager or leader

What do the words ‘manager’ and ‘leader’ mean to you? Most debates or articles I see on the subject tend to argue that being a leader is somehow better than being a manager. Some go so far as to suggest Jekyll and Hyde-type differences between the two.

If you think about it, the ‘manager’ is often portrayed as a directive or authoritarian character who is more focused on tasks than people. In the extreme view, the manager believes people are employed to do a job, to undertake tasks, to produce results, and little else. To this end, they are sometimes accused of using fear to drive performance. The ‘leader’, on the other hand, generates enthusiasm and inspires high levels of performance. They are typically viewed as more empowering and more enlightened than a manager, providing a coaching, supportive environment where their team members can develop themselves, as well as contribute to the company’s success.

Why one isn’t necessarily better than the other

There’s no doubt that inherent personality makes a difference to the type of owner you might be. Some owners dislike the nitty-gritty performance-management aspects of running a business. While others struggle to see themselves as inspirational figures.

However, I’d argue that, instead of assuming that leadership is better than management, we as business owners should embrace both aspects. In running a small or medium-sized business, you often need a blend of styles depending on where the company is in its lifecycle and the decisions that need to be made. In fact, one of the greatest attributes of any business owner is to develop a range of styles and know when to deploy each.

When to manage and when to lead

There are times you’ll need to be directive, even authoritarian, for example, when there are specific targets and actions that need to be undertaken within a certain timeframe. Your business will also go through phases of its lifecycle when the decisions are yours alone to make, such as the decision to start the business, or decisions on financing and bringing in a business partner.

There are other times when, even if you know what you want, it works to your advantage to let the team reach their own conclusion or contribute to your decisions. As your business builds its team and involves more people, the scope for collaborative working and seeking contributions increases. As a leader, you will view the building of your team as a way to generate more and better ideas, not just a way of off-loading tasks.

At Henchards, we help you develop your management and leadership styles – and, through a process of business coaching and mentorship, to identify when different approaches are most appropriate. In the long run, being a great leader is more likely to help you build business wealth, but there are times when you need to remember who is boss! To find out more, please get in touch.

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We’ve written a number of guides on selected business subjects that will set you and your business in good stead for whatever future you may choose.

These are free for you to download and to make use of in your business, so please help yourself.