Manager versus Leader

Not Everyone is a Leader, but Everyone can be a Good Manager

A couple of weeks ago, I was involved in teaching a group of sixty new supervisors with my Department. The experience level and ages varied greatly within the group. Most of the group were Generation X with the balance being Millennials. The expectation for these new supervisors to lead is very real. The responsibility is high since many of them supervise probationers who can be terminated very easily. I would dread being responsible for making a mistake which leads to the firing of an employee.

Manager versus LeaderI asked the group the following question. “How many of you consider yourself a leader?” I told them not to raise their hands since the expectation and culture of my Agency would dictate that everyone raises their hand. I conveyed that there were a number of them who did not feel like leaders or more importantly, they did not believe that they were leaders. My advice to them was to release their self-imposed pressure of leading and focus on another skill, managing.

I am a firm believer that an organization’s management would prefer an active manager versus a self-declared, yet absent, leader. My advice to them, work and improve your skills as a manger and build towards being a good leader. There is time to make managing people a skill which will prepare you for leading.

Unfortunately, with the current job market and low unemployment levels, we are promoting a number of supervisors who may not feel comfortable leading others. Many times, our new supervisors have limited team experience and virtually no leadership training. Toss in a lack of face-to-face communication skills, and you have a definite need for developing your supervisors.

My intent for telling this group of new supervisors to embrace managing people versus leading people was an attempt to guide them down a path of confidence. On this path, they can develop their managing skills and eventually nurture their eventual leadership capabilities. The skills needed to manage personnel is definitely transferable to leading others.

Additionally, I have a theory that new supervisors can use their managing approach to keep their focus on the very people they are responsible for. This perspective is member-centered versus leader-centered. A member-centered environment provides an environment of increased productivity and cohesiveness. A leader-centered environment can lead to alienation if the supervisor falls victim to leader focused role expectations over effectively managing people.

Manager versus LeaderWhile developing your managing skills is foundational for good leadership, my message is to develop beyond being a good manager. Once a supervisor has become proficient in managing, it is a natural progression to develop leadership skills. In reality, a successful supervisor both manages and leads people. It is a combination of these two needed roles which make supervisors great. Develop both on your road to supervisory mastery.

Determine what managing and leadership strengths you have. Not having the comfort level or skills needed to be an effective leader is a common self-assessment for many new supervisors. Take the pressure off of yourself and gain confidence becoming a great manager. Once you’ve reached the level of being a great manager, begin the process of mastering leadership. Each skill can be a lifelong pursuit, but you become a great supervisor in the process.

When given a choice, most people will choose being a great leader versus being a great manager. This is probably a consequence of our American culture where so much value is placed on leadership instead of management. Dychelon will bridge that gap and help supervisors become effective managers. We can provide the path and process to develop supervisors from being effective managers to great leaders. We have a proven path which has been taught to over a thousand supervisors in both the private and public sectors over the past several years. We can make a difference in your organization.


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Al Cobos is the owner and lead consultant for Dychelon which improves team performance and promotes successful team building. Al has successfully built teams over the past two decades. He has over thirty years of public sector experience in addition to teaching for several universities. His focus is to improve people in their personal and professional lives.