How to Be a Leader Rather Than a Manager

The transition from being a manager to becoming business leader, is one that many new business owners will need to make.

Often, the success or failure of your business depends on how well and how quickly you can adapt to this fundamental role change.

Never more so than in times of challenge, are leadership skills going to make the difference between a galvanized team of people and a disparate group. Here, Kate Tojeiro reveals 7 tips that will help you transform from a manager to a successful business leader;

In 1977 Abraham Zaleznik wrote that ‘the difference between managers and leaders lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order. Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully.

He argued that ‘business leaders have much more in common with artists, scientists, and other creative thinkers than they do with managers. Organizations need both managers and leaders to succeed, but developing both requires a reduced focus on logic and strategic exercises in favor of an environment where creativity and imagination are permitted to flourish’.

His wisdom is as true today as it was then.

In the City perhaps more so than anywhere else, economic and financial stability is balanced finely with risk and challenge on a daily basis, some would say, an art in itself.

The balance between being a leader and being a manager can sometimes be just as finely tuned. As Peter Drucker once said, management is about doing things right and leadership doing the right things.

To help highlight the difference, here are 7 key characteristics of successful business leader;

1. Great leaders connect daily with goals and aspirations and utterly know what matters most to them

It is very easy to get caught up in the process of what needs doing, a true leader will look above the daily actions to the wider task of achieving results.

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2. The greatest leaders think of people as people, seeking to understand them as opposed to seeking to be understood

Ultimately despite the organization, company or group, people work for people.

Top leaders will constantly hone their understanding of their people, their strengths, weaknesses and goals and interests. A real leader will think of people both individually and holistically and how this impacts upon the future.

Countless times when in the presence of great leaders, it is evident that they genuinely know their people and refer to them personally and not as a generic group, which lesser leaders tend to do.

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3. Top leaders go out of their way to earn respect

Politeness, courtesy and friendliness go a long way and great leaders know that despite this they aren’t always also going to be liked.

In the short-term they will sacrifice this likeability for being respected.

4. A true leader is genuinely thrilled when team members achieve great things

Sometimes a manager will worry first about being outshone rather than support the team member that is beginning to outgrow their role.

Conversely a leader will respond to a team member’s accomplishments with genuine pride.

5. Leaders share

Knowing that when you share, more will come back to you, as Paul Arden powerfully said.

Lesser leaders and some managers hold back on information and sharing knowledge believing that it will lessen their leverage, but all that will happen is an undermining of the team’s performance.

A leader knows intrinsically that transparency generally shows respect for the team and actually helps them do good work.

6. Leaders take responsibility for failures

If the team falls short, the leader understands that he or she is responsible. A mere manager will often blame the team.

It usually comes down to fear. If a manager hasn’t earned the respect of the team they will have a very real fear of losing power and therefore concern about losing their role or position in the organisation.

7. Leaders care about results

Managers are generally concerned about the process. Obviously, I realize that for some organizations management roles are designed specifically to protect processes, particularly where compliance and scrutiny is paramount.

However, if you’re reading this, I’m assuming that we have at least a little in common and that leadership appeals to you. You may also realize that you are in the minority or leaders. I often live by the rule that it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission, and true leaders tend to as well.

Final thoughts

Whilst leadership and management are not the same thing, they are linked, and indeed complementary.

There was a time when the leader and the manager could be separated but in the new economy, where value comes increasingly from knowledge, and people are no longer undifferentiated parts in a machine, management and leadership are not easily separated.

People look to their managers to assign them a task and to leaders to define a purpose. These two assets very often reside in the same person, maximizing efficiency, nurturing skills, developing talent and crucially, inspiring results.

At the end of the day, the mark of a great leader is someone who recognizes that leadership isn’t about creating followers but developing great leaders.

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About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Kate Tojeiro. Kate is an Executive Performance Coach, and author of The Art of Possible – new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action. See for more.

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