5 Ways Managers Can Also Be Leaders

By Dawna Jones

A question that is often asked in business is, “What is the difference between managers and leaders?” It’s an important question because the role of the manager as an agent of change has never been more important to business performance and a company’s ability to adapt.

Following are five factors that foster manager-leaders:

  • The company rewards leadership. Many companies reward achieving targets over teamwork or decreasing costs over customer satisfaction or employee engagement — goals that adhere to the conventional meaning of a manager’s role: to control performance, direct staff, find the resources, and deliver results.

  • In these companies, the workplace doesn’t reward leadership. It rewards conformity and, as a result, creates highly stressed managers and passive employees who wait to be told what to do.

    In this kind of environment, some managers pass the panic and pressure to perform directly onto staff as a command. As a result, the primary focus is on self-preservation as the managers look out for themselves (who wouldn’t?) and try to do the best for their staff, before the toll of the stress takes over. Naturally lousy managers advance because the rewards support poor leadership.

  • Managers are willing to break free from the status quo. You won’t hear one say, “This is the way we’ve always done it!” as a reason to not listen to new ideas or to overlook new opportunities. Sticking to the status quo while the world — and workplaces — is changing is high risk.

    Managers who believe that conforming to the norm is a viable management strategy have been successfully trained to be passive; they wait to be told, and leadership is out of reach.

  • Managers actively facilitate leadership development by giving control away. They actively give control away to staff by asking them for solutions and asking them to actively lead and find answers to problems that arise. In this environment, all staff see themselves as actively responsible and accountable for sustaining performance without needing to be told how to do.

    Initiative is rewarded. Shared understanding of the goals is enough to ignite collaboration. The manager steps out of the way so that team members can use their expertise to advantage.

  • Managers ask questions long before reaching conclusions. As a result, employees don’t expect the boss to have all the answers; instead they can participate in creating solutions.

  • Rather than feed their ego’s need to feel important, managers reward employees for taking the initiative. Then, collectively, the team steps back to celebrate the results.

Managing change in business requires managers who lead and engage the leadership skills and creative contribution of their staff. As business realizes how creating great places to work positively impacts the bottom line, managers who act as leaders become important change agents.