Which are you… A Manager or a Leader?

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Which are you.. a manager or a leader, leadership, communication, how to be a leader, http://exploringexpression.com

Are you a Manager or a Leader?

Communication is an instinctive skill to make others understand what one needs. Starting on the first day of an infant’s life, s/he begins developing the skills to get others to satisfy her needs and goals. Using the typical sender, message, receiver model of communication, the crying baby screams a message that the parent interprets as hunger. Throughout childhood and adolescence, that person further develops the ability to communicate a need for action by others. So evolves the leaders and managers of the adult world. However, just as there are different ways in which children are successful in communicating their needs, there are distinct differences between the methods in which leaders and managers communicate. But the end result is the same: to influence others to achieve a goal.


Before examining the differences in communication skills required of a leader and a manager, it is necessary to define the two:

A manager focuses on 3Ms: Money, Manpower, and Materials. S/He has a job that needs done.  S/He effectively utilizes the available resources, the 3Ms, that are available to get the work done. A manager uses skills such as planning, budgeting, decision making and problem solving. S/he tends to be results oriented, risk adverse, and keeps an eye on the bottom line.

A leader, on the other hand, focuses on influencing, motivating and empowering people to reach a goal. S/He uses skills such as inspiring, motivating, coaching, and team building. The leader is achievement oriented, willing to take risks while looking to the horizon.

In the words of Peter Drucker, “Leadership is doing the right things; management is doing things right.”

Which are you.. a manager or a leader, leadership, communication, how to be a leader, http://exploringexpression.com

Communication Skills

The very difference between the meanings of the two terms suggests the differences in communication skills needed. The manager is the person who uses formal authority to communicate to subordinates about clear inputs to achieve clear outputs. This person is often the subject matter expert who can teach step by step procedures. The leader uses personal charisma when speaking to teammates about the vision for group achievement. This person is the facilitator who inspires a team toward finding the most efficient or effective methods. Below are some of phrases that might be used by each:

Let’s share ideas to see how we could do this more efficiently, We need to have a training session to make sure everyone understands his/her role.
This is our goal, how can we get there? This is our goal, and these are the milestones we must meet to get there.
The group needs to come to a consensus. I need to make a decision
We are a great team. I have some great people working this project
This is our vision. These are the objectives.
Donuts for everyone!! Special recognition for the high performers


Combining the Two

Think about the phrases above and how you communicate to get things done. Your methods are probably not all on the left or all on the right. Instead, you probably bounce back and forth depending on the situation.

An organization needs people who can combine leadership and management communication based on the work that needs to be done and the people who are doing it. The highest degree of success will be achieved through a person who can communicate direction and vision while controlling the resources available. The same manager who assigns tasks and communicates process steps must also be able to inspire people to become innovative self-starters. In the same manner, the manager who must focus on sustainable, repeatable processes must also be able to encourage people to look for ways to improve those processes.

The situation dictates the type of communication needed to best achieve success. The leader/manager must learn to adjust communication techniques to balance the need of the task at hand and the people doing the task. If the team is still forming or expertise is low, the manager will need to communicate how and when tasks need to be done to maintain effectiveness. The manager must communicate controls and expectations. A more mature and experienced team may need a leader to encourage and develop the team to look beyond status quo to a longer term perspective.  The leader must communicate trust and direction.

Where is your team on that continuum?

General Colin Powell once said that “leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.”

A manager who communicates the job that must be done, will lead the team to even greater success.


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