Talent Circles

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Are you a leader or a manager? Be a linchpin instead

Print from personal collection by Hugh MacLeod available at qapingvoid

You don't like this question... and you are right!
You do not want to come across as arrogant by calling yourself a "leader,” or too pedestrian by saying that you are [only] a manager. You feel trapped in a bad dichotomy and you are right...
—     Being a leader refers to an attitude and an inspiring style that enables you to rally people around a vision.
—     Being a manager refers to a functional position where the goal is to execute a project and direct employers to do so.

Being a leader and being a manager are not mutually exclusive. The same person can be both and probably should in many circumstances. Look at it this way:  What is a leader with no management or execution skills? A hot-air blower out of touch with reality? A sloppy organizer? A dreamer? What is a manager with no leadership qualities? A short-sighted bureaucrat? A rank-and-file pen pusher?  A great leader must be a manager. A great manager must be leader. 

What if people define you using this dichotomy?
How do you take these statements?
—     "You are a leader and not a manager."
—     "You are a manager, not a leader."
If you believe these statements are truly descriptive of you, it's OK. Sometimes, however, you may not want others to define you through clichés and even if you are not afraid of this, it may be useful to contextualize such statements and assess their exact purpose.

"You are a leader and not a manager"
There is such a premium attached to the statement of "being a leader" that the tendency is to value the first part of the sentence and discount the second part of it. Make sure, however, that it's not a poisonous compliment... 

From superiors
You are being told that you are a guiding force, but that you fail at actually directing people or following through on projects. Are you a leader, then?

Your reality may be this:  Your superiors may resent your leadership and the management skills that come with leadership (cross-domain skills, fast problem solving capabilities and extensive processing capabilities that enable you to understand situations and learn quickly.... including the ability to see through this superior).  Chances are that their statement is a rhetorical scheme to demote you and put you into some "strategic" function where you will have no power, no voice, no decision-making or follow-through capabilities, and less access to information. In short, these superiors are removing what fuels your leadership to strengthen their own power and are taking this opportunity to micro-manage in order to keep control.

From subordinates
It can be the honest reproach of subordinates that you do not assist them as much as they expect - and it's true that for fast-thinkers, it can be exasperating to baby-sit subordinates that don't get it.  There is another case, though... when subordinates tell you that to make sure that you won't look too closely into what they actually do in order to be perceived as indispensable. That's their way of maintaining their little kingdom. You may not want to accept this so-called compliment...  

Whether the statement is coming from superiors or subordinates, chances are that you are facing a fairly common strategy of B players destined to box you in the place where they want you to be to protect their power.
"You are a manager, not a leader."
Maybe it's true and maybe you do not want to lead... If this is not the case, also look at where this statement comes from. Again, who is telling you that?

A superior?
Chances are that your management skills and your potential, threaten your superior. That's their only way to affirm their authority and maintain their own power, real or perceived. In other words, they don't want you to grow in your job, let alone further your career. This person is definitely not going to help you and will crush your initiatives at all costs.  

A subordinate?
It can be the reproach from a subordinate who expects more from you... So show your leadership skills and allow your subordinate to grow and thrive. 

Conclusion: Be a linchpin

Great leaders manage up, not down. Great managers must also be inspiring leaders. The distinction may work in dull hierarchical environments where people are boring, unimaginative and all about protecting their turf or where bosses are all about managing their egos and looking for cogs. BUT not in the energetic companies where people are happy to work because they know that they are linchpins whatever they do or are asked to do. It's always good to reread Seth Godin's books, especially Linchpin, a great manifesto for individual development and a call for a new workplace which I discussed a while back.


  1. I’ve read some good stuff here. I surprise how much effort you put to create such a great informative website. need someone to write my essay

  2. Comprising 25 watches, the new wristwear hits upon some of breitling replica the big mid-century watch trends we saw at Baselworld earlier this year: rugged leather, oblong faces, both all-metal Milanese and nylon Nato straps, brown dials, and even a skeleton watch or two. There's even a Moon Phase in replica breitling the selection - a throwback dial style that, you've guessed it, shows the current phase of the moon (and one which, trust us, you'll be seeing more and more men sporting over the coming year).Of course, you're not getting a complicated Swiss mechanism under the hood, but the solid quartz one you'll find in its place will keep your timepiece ticking along - and breitling replica watches allow you to try out a new watch trend (or three) without giving your bank manager a heart attack.

  3. Only wanna tell that this is very useful , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

    menghitung keliling lingkaran

  4. Ideal I’m an important sucker designed for researching your site; I want they'll deliver just a bit of offer you advice that will through almost everyone with enjoy you a top-notch extension. In recent times follow through Payday Loans Could be articles possess creates my in laws noticeably. Having to do with distinctive hint the same options on working on a blog.

  5. hey there in addition to thank you for your information. itunes cards free

  6. Nowadays I'm working as a Project Manager at legitimate essay writing service and I understand that sometimes you need to show your leadership skills and allow your subordinate to grow and thrive. I would like to add that you need to be in direct connection with all your employees, no matter are you working in one office or in different countries (if we talk about freelancers or outsource). In case, you lose connection with them you also lose an opportunity to check and control their working process and results.

  7. I’m a college grad and I know that it is very important to find job right after the graduation to pay my student loan. Recently I have learned that the best rated resume writing group and experienced resume writers help boost chances of success essentially. I think I should try.