Managers vs Leaders

My dad told me a story the other day when I asked him the difference between a Manager and a Leader.

“Managers are those men and women, that when the army is marching through a thick forest, ensure that the men are fed, well clothed and ready to fight at any time. They make sure that the battle lines are drawn, the weapons are ready to fire and they ensure that the men are ready to take on whatever is thrown at them.

A Leader, though, climbs the nearest tree, has a look out and see that the army is marching the wrong way.”

Do a quick Google search and you will find an amazing amount of websites with an explanation on the difference between Managers and Leaders. Some of them are quite in depth. This write up won’t be, it is simply a meandering thought as written by someone who has experienced both.

I used to be on a radio station based in Durban and while on air I had a go at a major telecommunications company. The next day I got a phone call from my manager/leader at the time and he and I had a long chat starting with a little dressing down for irritating an advertiser on the station. The conversation carried on and by the end of the call I felt as if there was an understanding and it ended with a smile as this man made me feel good about the other things that I had done on the show. I learnt my lesson, became a better person for it, but there was no screaming and shouting or venting of anger. In fact, the two of us went on to become great friends.

Having worked in broadcasting for over 20 years, it is a sad fact that people are promoted to leadership positions based on their broadcasting skills. It’s all very well promoting a sports intern to sports writer to sports editor and so on, but if that person doesn’t have the man-handling skills, then what’s the point? All that person is is a manager. Not having person-skills means that the people working under them can’t talk with them and they don’t know how to motivate staff, and it’s all about staff motivation. You want people to come in to work every day!

I like to bring Gary Kirsten into this argument. Gary was named coach of the India cricket team from 2008 – 2011. That team included such names as Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan and Virat Kohli. Kirsten and the team went on to win the Cricket World Cup in 2011. I remember asking Kevin McCallum, chief sports writer at the Star at the time, what a cricket coach does, With a world beating team like India were, what could Gary Kirsten bring to the team? Kevin looked at me as if I was mad. But I think that Gary made that India team believe that they were the best. He didn’t have to work on Tendulkar’s batting technique, he was the best batsman in the world. Gary was a leader, someone to could bring out the best in the men, the best in the support staff and the best in the way that they went to work.

If Gary was simply a manager, we would have been great at making sure the team were well fed, that they had their bats and balls and that they were at the right ground. That’s not a leader, that’s a logistics expert.

Don’t be a logistics expert. Go be a leader. Make people want to work for you. Go make those people better, make them want to become better, And when they do inevitably move on to better things, congratulate them and yourself on a job well done, because that is what you set out to do.

If you hold back a staff member who is working harder, trying to be better, trying to improve, then you are a manager following instructions from another manager, You are not a leader.

The main difference between leaders and managers is that leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them.

Look for potential in your company and develop it.

My good friend has a great saying that she repeats to me very often and I want you take this away with you today:

“Don’t be a dick.”

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