At some point in corporate culture, we began using the words manager and leader interchangeably. Yet, there is a tremendous difference between the two that all-too-often goes neglected in the corporate environment. Managers are taught to manage, to evaluate their subordinates, to give advice on how to better perform, to fire the right people and make the right hires. This, unfortunately, naive mentality has yielded an atmosphere that is now unsustainable in the modern day workplace. The rapid emergence of prevailing technologies mandates that we must alway be thinking forward in addition to judging the present. Whereas before, effective managers were mere managers, now, effective managers must both manage and lead.
Leadership requires looking to the future. Leadership requires improving upon existing systems and motivating employees. Leadership requires a palpable energy that your coworkers can absorb and use to their advantage. Lead by inspiration and example, not by mere incentive. While of course financial incentive does and will continue to play an integral role in bolstering employee performance, it is not enough to sustainably and continually perpetuate employee improvement.
Take for instance the traditional perception of management. Formerly, managers were expected to ensure smooth efficiency, an efficiency that was measured by a clear-cut system of inputs and outputs. With this idea of a metric system in place, employees became cookie-cutter cogs in the machine of business, rather than the individuals they are and should continue to be. To truly unlock the maximum potential of your business, managers must identify their employees not just as machines, but rather as people. This is a distinctive difference between mere managers and thoroughbred leaders.
Leaders recognize individuals for the people they are and tap into the desire and ambition that drives them in order to inspire the best possible performance. By cultivating an atmosphere of innovative and creative energy, your subordinates become your teammates. Your workers become your family. Your employees become members of your shared dream, and will work with you in order to achieve that shared dream.
By sharing your dream with a team, and not just articulating your dream to workers, your teammates will think outside of the box on how best to accomplish that dream. Rather than confine their workday to nine-to-five, they will strive to think of creative solutions at all times of the day. Work ceases to be work and instead becomes a goal that can be achieved over time.
Perhaps the best manner in which to enact this transition is to practice self-awareness. When addressing your team, do you convey passion in your tone? Do you encourage your workers when they pose creative solutions to consistent issues? Do you foster a spirit of innovation and leave the door open for suggestions?
Managers may survive, but leaders thrive.