Every Company Needs Managers and Leaders

Are you a leader or a manager? It is the wise businessperson who hires the person best suited to complement their strengths.


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In business, goals and objectives need to be reached. Often, it is the leader who sets the vision of those goals and the manager who leads the team to accomplish the tasks required to attain those goals. Ideally in small to mid-sized businesses, there is one leader and one manager. These roles are embodied by the CEO (visionary) and the COO (integrator).

However, rarely is business ideal; most of us when we are starting out have to wear the leader hat one moment and the manager hat the next moment.

If you are wondering which you are—a leader or a manager—consider the following differences between the roles.

Leaders inspire, motivate and encourage the employees. They coach people and drive the organization to new heights. In order to do that, they must be:

  • committed to a vision. The best leaders have a vision of where they want the business to go, as well as why the business should go there. Steve Jobs at Apple and Elon Musk at Tesla are two examples. They are iron-willed regarding where they wanted their businesses to go and how they wanted their businesses to change the world. Their main roles were to inspire their employees to buy into that vision and follow them to higher levels of achievement. They did not accept excuses well, and they challenged employees to exceed their self-imposed limits.
  • inspiring communicators. Leaders are self-aware and work actively to build their unique and differentiated personal brand within the organization. They are comfortable in their own shoes and willing to stand out. They’re authentic and transparent and at times vulnerable. This level of authenticity is both inspirational and aspirational. The focus in their messaging is about achievement, and they rarely concern themselves with being popular with the staff.
  • focused on positivity. Leaders paint a picture of what they see as possible and inspire and engage their people in turning that vision into reality. They think beyond what individuals do; they activate people to be part of something bigger. They know that high-functioning teams can accomplish a lot more working together than individuals working autonomously.
  • creative change agents. They embrace change and know that even if things are working, there could be a better way forward. And, they understand and accept the fact that changes to the system often create waves. When the business is struggling or underperforming, they are willing to dig deep into systems and evaluate people, often making changes to both. While they may not always enjoy the chaos that changes bring, they revel in the thought of a brighter, more successful future.
  • lifelong learners. Leaders know if they aren’t learning something new every day, they aren’t standing still; they’re falling behind. They remain curious and seek to remain relevant in an ever-changing world of work. They seek out people and information that will expand their thinking. They attend seminars, they listen to podcasts, they engage with coaches and consultants. Mark Cuban, for example, reads four to six hours per day, investing in expanding his knowledge and looking for the one new idea that will inspire him and his companies to be all they can be.

Managers plan, organize, direct and coordinate talent and resources. They must be:

  • detailed and organized. Management of employees, customers, internal and external resources, is made up of many moving parts, and these parts cannot be handled on the fly. Managers crave customer relationship management software and other software to measure the company performance on a granular level.
  • focused on constant improvement. Managers constantly review what works, refining systems, structures and processes to make them better. Where leaders will make sweeping changes, managers focus on the consistent improvement of people and systems.
  • short-term goal driven. Managers focus on setting, measuring and achieving goals, including 30-day, 90-day and 1-year goals. They control situations to reach or exceed their objectives. In many organizations, financial bonuses are tied to achieving these goals.
  • delegators. Managers assign action steps to staff and provide guidance on how to accomplish them. Similar to leaders, they recognize that it takes a team of people to execute a plan, not rugged individuals.
  • mentor and train. Managers, because they often work with employees so closely, will mentor and train people they believe in. If they see the employee who has potential to exceed their current position within the company, they will invest in them, in order to benefit both the employee & the company. This creates a win-win scenario, while bolstering the company culture by showing other employees that the manager is willing to invest in his staff.
  • clear and direct when communicating. Being able to manage is being able to communicate what you need to who needs to do it.

The reality is that both leaders and managers are needed for a company to grow and thrive. It takes a high level of self-awareness to know which is your natural tendency and which is not. It is the wise businessperson who hires the person best suited to complement their strengths. By putting aside pride and ego and building out a highly functioning team, a company can attain great heights of success.


About the Author

Todd Palmer is the president of Diversified Industrial Staffing, a national skilled labor recruiting firm, based in Troy, Michigan. 
Contact tpalmer@diversifiedindustrialstaffing.com.