Recently, I was having a discussion with a colleague at work and the topic of leadership and management came up. I was surprised to learn that "manager" is seen as a bit of a taboo word, though I certainly did not mean to imply anything negative.
But I did start thinking.
What is a manager, and what is a leader? Are all people in management positions leaders ex-officio?
In short: "no," but I realise it has become the trend to do away with the more industrial-sounding "manager" in favour of the motivating and inspiring "leader" when this so often should not be the case.
I can sum it up the distinction between the two right now: I want to work with a leader, and I want to work for a manager. If a person can be both, great! If not, then I will seek out both wherever I am.
A Manager: A do-er. A person of organisation, and of action, who can take in all the details necessary and relevant for situation, and act on them - often on the spot, if required. The person who makes the trains run on time.
A Leader: A person who, through their own example, provides inspiration and motivation. They are capable of coherently expressing a purpose and a vision, and as a result people want to emulate them or simply be moved by them. The person who dreams up the train. A leader may have an intuitive understanding of the people that surround them, and as a result may find communicating with them that much simpler.
The Leader-Manager: A hybrid of the two. They have the capacity for organisation and details that a team desperately needs, coupled with the je ne sais quoi qualities of leadership that are so hard to pin down. They are the boss's boss, not because of any single leadership or management attribute, but because of how seamlessly they have woven the two together.
How To Spot the Difference: Well this is where it gets sensitive. A leader will almost never refer to themselves as such, though whether this is a compliment or a critique I have yet to determine. Conversely, to an extent all managers need to ensure that their roles are understood, and that their place in an organisational hierarchy is clear.
Why All Managers Aren't Leaders (and some are): Briefly, it is because they don't have to be. An organisation of any notable size (let's say with more than three people involved) at some point will need someone to simply manage something. The fact that the trains run on time is far more impressive a feat than simply dreaming up a train that never goes anywhere. There is nothing lacking in a manager who is not also a leader, just like there is nothing lacking in a leader who is not in a management position. The two qualities can be complementary, but they are not requisite to one-another.
Some leaders rise to management, and in doing so take on a degree of formalised responsibility. They have tasks and deadlines and other managers to work with, and while they may retain their intrinsic leadership qualities, they now also have to meet their management objectives. This might mean using their management skills to settle an interpersonal dispute at the office, or it might be setting organisational targets for the upcoming fiscal or academic year. They may have the advantage in that they are able to use pre-existing leadership qualities to generate consensus, however, a leader in a manager's role has given up their informal responsibility, the kind that arises from having an influence over other people without actually having a mechanism for exerting that influence, nor any obligation to do so.
What Does it All Mean? Let's stop this fear of the word "manager" right now, before it's too late and suddenly things just stop being managed at all!
Managers: Find the leaders in your organisation (hint: look below you on the organisational chart as well as above you) and encourage them in every possible way. Note their style of practise and develop ways of propagating that style. Let them inspire you as much as you need to keep them focused.
Leaders: Your informal responsibility is just that, a responsibility. Whether it is known to you or not, people all over your organisation look to you for the motivation and inspiration to do their job in a fulfilling, gratifying, and constantly-improving way.