Key points to follow to be a leader, not a manager

Managing a team of people comes with a new level of responsibilities, but have you ever considered the vast difference between being a manager and a leader? Lucy Desai, writer at experiential learning practice Impact International, comments


arvard Business Review reports that 30 is the average age of a first-time manager, while 40 is the age where people first embark on leadership training. This is a decade of lost years of building leadership skills – this can lead to ingraining bad habits and not practising to improve your style.

Being a manager does not automatically make you a leader. The main difference between a manager and a leader is that managers delegate tasks to those who work for them, whereas leaders have people follow them and believe in what they are setting out for the company.

The best part of the last year has demonstrated that leaders need to be prepared and agile to respond to protect their business and employees. Here we will determine the four ways in which managers can transform themselves into leaders.

Lucy Desai, writer, Impact International

Respect goes two ways

Firstly, and most importantly, be respectable. Respect should be earned, not expected – no employee is going to consider a manager their leader if they do not respect them.

There are a number of things you should consider in order to gain your employees’ respect. After all, if they respect you, they are likely to work harder for you, cooperate more with others, be more creative, resilient and likely to take direction.

These include:

  • Leading by example. Be prepared to pick up tasks big and small, for example making your own cup of coffee or printing copies out to hand out to the workforce;
  • Listen to your team. Open the floor for others to speak and allow them to voice their opinions on how to improve things. Holding steady team meetings opens up a dialogue of feedback and ideas;
  • Follow through on deadlines and agreements. If you cannot meet your own deadlines, why should your team? If you offer to help someone on a particular project, honour that promise;
  • Accept responsibility if things do not work out.

Communication is key

Never underestimate the power of communication. Managers with poor communication skills often alienate their workers, leaving the team confused and with little faith that things are being run properly. Take time to communicate your ideas, expectations, strategies and everything in between, making everyone else feel involved in what is going on.

You can do this by thinking of any strategy the same as telling a story to someone who knows nothing about it. You can focus on things you do not know or what you need to understand yourself in order to relay it others.

By involving your team and keeping them engaged, this will also allow successful executions and a happy, motivated team – you cannot expect a strategy to work if it is not understood and nobody is committed.

Shape company culture

Leaders should contribute to an active company culture. If workers' characteristics do not fit into the culture, this could influence their decision to leave. By defining a culture early on and recruiting those who fit into the talent pool, employees will feel comfortable which will have a positive effect on their performance.

Harvard Business carried out research to find out which qualities are most important in leaders. 700 workers were asked which qualities they value the most – 70% agreed that creating a culture of engagement is a very important attribute and results in lower turnover rates, more productivity and more profitability.

This reiterates what was mentioned in the first section – leaders must lead by example. They can determine how valued traits are within the business, for example, communication, integrity, and commitment.

Employees who work in an engaging culture with their leader will have positive opinions about the company and will be strong advocates.

Leadership training programmes

Go over and beyond for your team and consider enrolling on programmes that are designed to guide leaders through key issues and how to effectively adopt forward-thinking strategies.

Organisations are constantly evolving in the modern world, therefore so does the nature of leading. Building on agile and reactive skills can help you become a capable and inspiring leader.

Leaders certainly have a big responsibility to inspire and encourage their workers – so it is important to do it properly.