Leaders vs. Managers: Two Kinds of Training in Motivating Others

A leader not only brings a vision to their team, but motivates them to make their vision a reality. Contrast that picture with what we typically think when we hear the word “manager.” A manager has milestones and expectations, concentrating on the work, the day-to-day, and measures performance based on what the team does. A leader wants to develop other leaders; a manager has a to-do list the team must complete.

We may readily recognize those differences, but it might not be clear how the skill sets of the two differ, if at all, or how they affect different approaches to training. Still, knowing the difference, we can begin to spell these out.

In fact, leaders:

Need Compassion: You can develop the best leadership training programs, but you have to start with someone who wants to lead. The best leaders have a passion to lead others and bring their vision to the surface. If the drive is there, the rest falls into place.

Talk the Talk: To be a leader, you need to speak like one. Leadership comes with a whole slew of new responsibilities—and those responsibilities include lots of close, interpersonal communication with varying degrees of sensitivity and a range of different personality types. Fred Kofman, Ph.D., author of Managing Difficult Conversations reminds us that “Difficult conversations are scary because the stakes are high and there is a real cost of failure, raising everyone’s defenses.” But this is the type of communication a leader will participate in on a daily basis.

See the Future: Leaders have vision—it’s the main thing that separates a leader from a manager in the first place. A leader can see the potential of his or her team and has a plan in place for how to take the group to the next level. Moreover, a leader knows how to motivate the team to achieve this vision. Take time in your leadership training to create a vision. Ask your potential leaders to identify what they want for their teams and outline a plan for how they can get their teams to do it.

In contrast, managers, 

Need Thick Skin: A big part of being a manager is sometimes needing to ask people to do things they may not always want to do. Management is a lot like parenting in this way—there is a degree of delegating that isn’t always fun. How do you deliver this news to your team? A good manager constantly has to motivate their teams toward an end-goal.

Have Your Back: Most of us have had a miscommunication during a meeting, a missed deadline, or a wrong comment in an email. When this occurs with a team member, he or she needs an ally as much as a critic. This is where a manager needs to step up his or her game and show they have the team’s back. And while a good manager will still hold an employee accountable, he or she is also there by your side for support and guidance while the issue is resolved.

Listens With Open Ears: Not only should a manager have his or her employees’ backs in the office but also has to know when to listen. We touched on communication when training leaders, and while listening should be a requirement for all, it’s so important when delegating the all-important to-do list. People flock to their manager to help. The manager enters to be that sounding board for the team.

If the passion is there, you can train a leader. After the training day ends and employees head back to their teams, it will become clear who is a leader. The leader is a natural master at the basics and can mentor new leaders. A manager is a productivity rock star. Leaders set the goal and supply the means. Managers show the way. Both are important, and both need the right skills.

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