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Leader or Manager? Find out which one are you

What is leadership anyway? According to the dictionary definition it is the following.

“the action of leading a group of people or an organization”

This definition is so vague it doesn’t even begin to capture the essence and importance of what leadership truly is. I much prefer Tony Robbins definition of leadership.

Tony defines leadership as “empowering others to become effective leaders as well.”

In my many years of consuming copious amounts of personal development and leadership material, I always believed that true leaders created more leaders. It’s not good enough to lead, you need to empower others to become leaders also. So that you can move onto other projects to influence and empower even more people.

Here’s the thing about leadership that a lot of people either don’t understand or refuse to believe: Everyone can be a leader. There is no single answer to “What is leadership?” because it isn’t something you are born with or without, but a powerful skill that can be developed over time. Great leaders don’t follow a single path or personality type. In fact, you’ve probably taken on leadership roles in your life that you didn’t realize at the time. So, what makes a good leader? And how can you sharpen those skills and put them to work for you in your career and your life?

Leadership is the ability to inspire a team to achieve a certain goal. It’s usually discussed in the context of business, but leadership is also how you, as an individual, choose to lead your life. The definition of leadership is to influence, inspire and help others become their best selves, building their skills, and achieving goals along the way. You don’t have to be a CEO, manager or even a team lead to be a leader. Leadership is a set of skills and a certain mindset that anyone can master.

It’s important to note that leadership is not a zero-sum equation. When one person harnesses their powers to lead, it strengthens the leadership opportunities of others, rather than diminishing them. That’s why many iconic leaders have incredible mentors they cite for their success. (Mark Zuckerberg considers Steve Jobs a mentor. Bill Gates mentioned Warren Buffet as a mentor. Maya Angelou mentored Oprah Winfrey.) As one person begins to embrace their role as a leader, they inevitably connect with others who have already mastered the art of leadership.

To be fair, it’s sometimes challenging to differentiate a leader from a manger. But the following list may help you identify which camp you are in.

Leadership vs. Management

Leadership -

Could be a manager

Must inspire others around them

Emphasizes innovation

Doesn’t always follow existing rules and structures

Operates with relative independence but collaborates with others


Could be a leader

May or may not inspire those under them

Emphasizes rationality and control

Seeks to work within and preserve existing corporate structures

Typically, a link in the corporate chain of command. Follows company policy

Another difference between leaders and managers is that leaders emphasize innovation and outside the box thinking. Whereas a manager seeks to meet goals while simultaneously following company rules.

A leader is more concerned with setting and achieving lofty goals, often at the expense of existing corporate structures. A leader is likely to encourage someone that has a radical new idea that can revolutionize the company and the industry. Whereas a manger would tend to discourage that same person from pursuing the idea because it would be outside the scope of their job responsibilities as set out by the company.

Managers are likely to preserve existing structures because they themselves operate within that structure. They may have bosses above them, so they have less freedom to break rules in the pursuit of lofty goals. Leaders, on the other hand, often operate independently. That allows them to tolerate a greater amount of risk, so long as they believe it will be worth it in the end.

Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal. As the group progresses, new leaders will naturally and organically emerge. The magic happens when these new leaders share their vison and ideas thus morphing the original goal into something even better than the original leader intended.

Organizations refer to upper-level personnel in their management structures as leadership, but a title does not and will not ever make you a leader. To be an effective leader, you must possess traits that extend well beyond management duties.

The exciting part is that leadership skills can be learned, and leaders can evolve. Managers can evolve to become amazing leaders, but they will need to learn to ease up on the reigns of control and allow other leaders to emerge. This is often the biggest stumbling block for “managers” because what got them to their position is the want or need to be in control.

In my humble opinion, you can either be a leader or a manager, but you can’t be both. Having said that, you can have the title of “Manager” and be a great leader as leadership does not require a title. A janitor can have better leadership skills than some CEO’s.

I would encourage you to look within your company or department, identify those budding leaders and allow them to bloom into the next generation of leaders that will transform your company or organization.

Don’t aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference!

When I ask Advisors "what's your biggest challenge?" The answer is almost always the same: "Prospecting"

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