Leadership and Management: Not One and the Same!

By Marilyn Weiss | Leadership

May 29

When it comes to the employee experience, it’s hard to understate the role an employee’s supervisor plays in their overall happiness at work. Yet most companies train their people to be managers, not true leaders, according to leadership and management guru Simon Sinek. In fact, Sinek cites leadership as one of the biggest deficits in most organizations today.

Have you ever stopped to consider the difference between management and leadership? Sinek has. He defines them like this:

  • Management: the practice of manipulating people for personal gain
  • Leadership: the responsibility of inspiring people for the good of the group (1)

Leadership is such a vast topic that it can’t be thoroughly explained in just one blog post. That’s why I want to share some of my very favorite ideas about leadership here – to cut through some of the clutter on this topic and help us all focus in on the most intriguing ideas about what it means to be a great leader.

Great leaders create context and meaning for their teams.

Half of employees don’t understand how their role benefits their organization or how they contribute to the company’s overall goals (2). Great leaders combat this by creating understanding for their employees and helping them connect even menial tasks to the greater good. “Why does it matter to you and why does it matter to the person you’re delegating to?” asks Scott Eblin, author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success. “What does it mean to the company or the customer? You have to be super clear on the task and the stakeholders (3).”

Great leaders delegate effectively.

While many leaders know how to delegate, far fewer know how to do it effectively. Strong leaders make delegation requests as clear as possible to their employees in terms of the work involved, and what success looks like. They give input and guidance when asked, but don’t offer to take the work back on themselves because they know it limits their employees’ growth. (For more context and tips about how to resist the temptation to take an employee’s work on as your own, see Harvard Business Review’s widely cited concept of the “monkey on the back (4).” One of the biggest differences between a manager and a leader is what each personally gets done. When you become a leader, your focus should shift to supporting and empowering those who get the work done, not doing the work yourself. This can be a very hard shift for new leaders to make, but it’s absolutely essential to move from manager to leader.

Great leaders celebrate their people.

The best leaders express appreciation to their teams – loudly and often – and it matters. The vast majority of employees – 81% – say they’re willing to work harder for a more grateful boss (5). And, their words translate into action, with one study showing employees were 50% more productive after being shown gratitude from an authority figure (6). If great leadership means getting things done through other people, then great leaders know how to appreciate the people doing the work. It’s as simple as that.

These are just a few ideas about what makes a great leader. I’d like to end where I began – with the wise words of Simon Sinek, who reminds us that great leaders can be found anywhere within an organization, not just at the top: “I know many people that sit at the highest levels of an organization who are not leaders. We do as they say because they have authority, but we would not follow them voluntarily. I know many leaders who sit at mid ranks who have no authority and they’ve made a choice to look out for the people around them, and we would follow them anywhere (7).”

If you want to better understand how your organization’s leaders are contributing to your employees’ experience, LINX WorkForce Innovations can help. We apply proven qualitative research techniques developed from the market research industry to reveal deep human insight about the employee experience. We help organizations uncover the truth about the employer/employee relationship to make improvements that tackle real issues.

1Simon Sinek on Twitter
2Ceridian’s 2018 Pulse of Talent survey 
3Fast Company: These Are the 5 Mistakes You Make When You Delegate
4Harvard Business Review: Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?
5John Templeton Foundation study
6Harvard Business School/Wharton study
7Forbes: How Anyone Can be the Leader They Wish They Had: Interview with Simon Sinek

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About the Author

Marilyn has a passion for Workforce Wellness. As co-founder of LINX WorkForce Innovations, she is keen on discovering and amplifying the “Voices of Employees” who are the “Consumers of the Workplace,” so that the right WorkForce solutions can be co-created the first time. Previously, she co-founded SIVO Insights where she provides thought leadership and creative thinking for Fortune 500 companies by uncovering consumer insights and experiences. For every endeavor, she believes in the power of a strong company culture, based on authentic connections, innovative approaches and a growth mindset.

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