There are some very important distinctions between being a manager, and being a leader. Not all managers are leaders, and not all leaders are managers. It’s really fantastic when you get a manager who is also a leader, but you don’t have to be at the top of the organization to lead.
There are some incredibly important qualities that all good leaders have. It’s not too difficult to try and adopt some of these qualities and create a leader within yourself. Being a leader in your organization will help those around you feel motivated and excited about work, and even if your management struggles to lead, you can be a source for good and help cultivate a great culture.
1. Good Leaders Work. Good leaders are in the trenches, getting their work done and then aiding others to get their work done. No job is beneath them, deadlines aren’t to be missed, and they do what they need to do to help everyone succeed. Being willing to work sets an example for others of what is expected, and ensures that everyone feels equal.
2. Good Leaders Balance. While it’s hugely important that good leaders put in the time and do the work, good leaders also balance. They take time for their relationships and personal life, and encourage others to do the same. They work the late nights with everyone to pull off the project, but also encourage everyone to enjoy time off and step up to the plate to help them do so. They lead by example.
3. Good Leaders Listen. There aren’t bad or wrong ideas, good leaders don’t just hear things said by coworkers, they actually listen to them. They try to understand where colleagues are coming from, and they respond accordingly. When they need to give correction, they do so kindly and with understanding.
4. Good Leaders Take Responsibility. Good leaders know when to take responsibility for their actions. They apologize when they need to, don’t blame other people for shortcomings, and they own who they are and what they have done. They are willing to hear feedback, evaluate, and take responsibility to implement what they can to improve.
5. Good Leaders Care. In my mind, the most important thing a good leader can do is care about the people they work with. They care about them doing a good job and meeting goals, but they also care about their family and personal life. Now, there is a line of professionalism that’s important in most work environments, but a good leader is sympathetic and understanding about the plight of a single parent; they are interested in hearing about vacations, and they recognize personal improvement and growth.
It’s important that those of us who are managers really take the idea of leadership vs. management to heart, and really ensure that we aren’t just managers, but that we are leading as well. Similarly, those who aren’t managers can be the greatest leaders in an organization. They may not have the authority to sign off on vacation or they may not have the skills to help on a particular project, but they can always be the example, the word of kindness, and the helping hand in anyway they can.