Organisations have to run with goals in the short term as well as in the long term. They need managers to own up to these goals and get their teams to deliver upon the goals. And there is a spirit of the organisation which defines its way of doing business and thus, makes it stand apart from its peers. It is not easy for all managers to own the spirit of the organisation alongside its goals.
When a manager succeeds in delivering on his or her goals, he or she is a good manager. When the person does this consistently, we see him or her as a great manager. At the same time, if the person holds the spirit of the organisation high and furthers it internally as well as externally, we see the person as a great leader.
Why can’t every manager be a leader?
Leadership is a complex challenge. It starts with a clear alignment with the purpose and mission of the organisation. Often the mission and purpose of a firm remain on its walls, brochures, website and presentations. Appreciating the purpose, and identifying one’s interest and passion for the organisation’s mission may not be easy for every individual who works in a leadership role. It takes effort and time for the idea to sink in and get embedded completely.
Once the fusion happens, the rest of the journey is relatively easier.
People in managerial roles have to carry the mantle of getting things done by a team of people. They lean on the organisation structure, systems and processes to plan the activities to be done, delegate tasks, allocate resources, review the progress and make necessary changes along the way. One does not need to necessarily worry about the overall purpose and the vision to deliver on the goals at hand. Hence, many people do not take the effort to understand the nuances associated with the organisation’s character and relate them to life at work.
Those who take the effort may face certain anxieties and unclarities in the short run, but they lead a holistic, purposeful and fulfilling work life. They can inspire their team members better and drive their actions not only for short-term goals but also for longer-term intentions.
Is a leader always at a higher altitude than a manager?
Not necessarily! Someone right on the frontline of an organisation might understand the purpose of the organisation clearly, relate to it well and see the coherence of the long-term direction with the day-to-day behaviours at work. It is easy for the person to see the dissonances, if any and act on them in the best possible manner. He or she then is not only a manager but also a leader, holding the spirit of the firm with great passion as much as the owner holds it.
Sometimes, people holding senior roles and titles in an organisation might be highly skilled at the job they do and deliver impressive results, but might not be very much connected with the purpose, mission and spirit of the organisation. They typically see their engagement with the firm as a transaction that fetches them their livelihood and fulfils their social needs well. Accordingly, they expect a work environment that rewards and recognises fairly well and fulfils all hygiene needs. Similarly, they drive their teams objectively based on objectives and key results expected of them; they do not particularly engage in conversations related to the soul and spirit of the company.
Should a leader not be a manager?
Every team has diversity of various kinds and hence, one size doesn’t fit all. Sometimes, one member of the team might be in such a position that the brass tacks are more important rather than understanding and immersing oneself in the vision and spirit support of the organisation. Hence, the manager has to focus on objectives, methods, training, reviews and control. Sometimes, the role could be such that a large part of the job is around process rigour and accordingly, the manager has to spend significant energy on the transactional aspect of work rather than the larger mission.
When managers understand the purpose well, and live their work life in alignment with the mission and spirit fully, they come across as inspiring people who are there to empower their team members to achieve results. They build long-term relationships with their team members and influence them for a lifetime.
Thus, leadership is not related to the level in the organisation hierarchy. Ideally, the senior role-holders of a firm should be leaders rather than mere managers. For senior leaders to be effective, they need to deploy their energies in inspiring, enabling and coaching rather than in controlling, reviewing and monitoring.