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Leader or Manager: What Difference Does a Name Make?

Mark Crowley, a writer on leadership I admire greatly, tweeted this weekend:

“I’ve honestly never bought into that leader vs. manager dichotomy. If you are going to manage other human beings, you better have the inclination to care about other people. If not, off you go.”

I had to respond because while I agree at base with what he’s saying, I also know that there is a vast difference in how people perceive themselves when they call themselves managers and when they call themselves leaders.

When I work with my clients and begin to talk about them seeing themselves as #Leaders instead of #Managers, their whole being seems to change. They sit up, fill out instead of hunching over, their voice gets stronger. They own it. I literally see a physical change through my Zoom screen. Or if we are on the phone, the timbre of their voice changes.

And then the conversation also changes. We talk about things like:

  • What does it mean to lead others?
  • What responsibility do they have?
  • How do they want to affect others?
  • What are the values they wish to embody?
  • The leader casts a long shadow so let’s talk about your impact.

By seeing themselves as leaders, my clients begin to embrace the fact that they do have impact on others.

I help them see this, of course. One of the key things I do is ask them about past leaders and managers they’ve worked for.

  • How did those folks make you feel?
  • What do you want to emulate?
  • What do you wish they’d done differently?
  • How can you be the leader you wish you had?

It opens up a whole new conversation to introduce the word #Leader to someone who’s only seen themselves as a manager.

Unfortunately, I rarely hear of leaders or managers my clients wish to emulate. When I do, the person has made a huge impression on them.

Every single reference is to someone who led from the heart. Every single one. Here are the observations I hear:

  • “Saw my strengths”
  • “Trusted me”
  • “Valued my work and tells me so”
  • “Helped me develop sometimes with hard truths followed up by support”
  • “Cared about everyone on team”
  • “Let me learn from mistakes”
  • “Delegated to me effectively”
  • “Communicated often”
  • “Explained context when possible”
  • “Was kind”
  • “Able to laugh with us”

For sure they #LeadFromTheHeart The sad part is how few there are. Maybe because my clients are unhappy at work. But few even looking back through career

Where are the #LeadFromTheHeart leaders and managers I hear about? Most often in very well established companies / organizations.

Least often? Every sector, including nonprofit. It is obvious there’s little investment in training leaders or managers.

Calling oneself a leader is a step toward being conscious of your impact on others. It moves you from managing people’s work, to leading people’s hearts.

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