What makes a good leader or a good manager?

Leadership and management come in various shapes and forms. And not everyone can go on to become a great leader, nor can everyone become a great manager. They are two distinct roles which require different skills to achieve success in either. Understanding what each role is will better inform you whether you’re a leader or a manager. Either way, it’s useful to know how each operates.

Managers: executers for a leader’s vision

Generally speaking, managers will administer the ideas of the leader. A leader will strive to innovate and champion new work policy, they will steer the direction of the business and have a level of courage that is required for good leadership . Imagine leaders as trendsetters and managers are those who follow those trends, making sure the workforce adheres to those trends. It isn’t dictatorship, though employees who are confident in their leaders will understand that the trends that they are following are good trends. Trends that come from a place of understanding, innovation and expertise. Call it vision, if you will.

Managers are not purely facilitators to a leader’s vision, however. They help to further the vision of a leader by ensuring that employees follow. Managers are the guardians who oversee the activities of the business. It is important to have a team of good managers because they can be the difference between helping a company drive towards success or not. Leaders aren’t without blame either. A bad leader can be even worse than a bad set of managers because their bad decisions can lead to the ending of a company. The most recent example is Marissa Meyer at Yahoo! During her polemical tenure, she attempted to revitalise Yahoo! through multiple (and unsuccessful) acquisitions. It didn’t take long for Yahoo! to be bought by Verizon for a meagre 4.8 billion dollars. Essentially what managers do is organise, facilitate, assign and define purpose. If you imagine that leaders ask the questions what and why, it is the managers who ask how and when.

Follow the leader, reap the rewards

Although both intertwined, both have to think differently about how they approach their role – it isn’t just a case of following the leader blindly. Leaders have to believe in their ideas with all their gusto and convince people that this is the appropriate vision for the business and managers then have to ensure that the leaders vision is being carried out properly which requires high levels of strategic planning, delegation and its own sense of leadership, too.

Leaders often break the mould – while managers deal with complex systems and how best to utilise their team in those systems, leaders tend to find the best people to have around them and then the system is built around that. A key difference between leaders and management then is that leaders inspire their workforce and that is invaluable. Leaders think more long-term, they take risks and seek transformation and shape a credible workforce. Think of it like parliament, the leader of a political party is the one with the vision and the people who help him or her carry out that vision are the elected politicians. Managers, like members of parliament, are important for organisational success, no doubt, but it is the leaders who really steer a company (or political party) towards success with their vision. They go hand in hand – a good leader will need a good manager, of course, but finding the right leader is a lot more difficult than finding a good manager.

Leaders and managers – a necessary symbiosis

Good managers need to be open to new ideas, they need to adapt to unsuspecting change, expect excellence from their employees and communicate regularly and efficiently. Likewise, leaders need to be able to demonstrate these skills too. However, it is the way in which they utilise their repertoire of skills that highlights the key differences in the way managers manage and leaders lead. Leaders will come up with the ideas, they will be the catalysts for change and they will demand excellence from their managers. Managers will then filter this down to their team. Therefore the relationship between a leader and a manager must be co-operative and collaborative in order for it to function properly and bring success. Business requires strong leaders and managers, these are essential for a successful workforce.

Do you want to learn more about team leadership and management? Discover our practical tips and tricks here.