Individual contributors become managers every day, and when they do the event is usually quite clear and visible to everyone in the organization. But the transition from manager to leader can be another story entirely.
I just read a terrific post by Butterfly co-founder Simon Rakosi called "Why Transforming Managers into Leaders Shouldn't be Left to Chance." He points out some great distinctions between management and leadership, including Managers educate around skills and tasks; leaders inspire around a vision and Managers view their employees in silos; leaders focus on team dynamics.
The challenge in our dynamic, hyper-kinetic industry is that there's rarely a clean breaking point between one job and the next: it's rare that someone ever says "I'm done being a manager now: time to start leading!" Most senior digital sales executives will pivot between these two roles a thousand times - often within the same day.
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On paper, the chief revenue officer is a leadership job, while the regional director is pretty clearly a manager. But the CRO must instantly snap back into manager mode when working with her direct reports, while the regional director must step up and lead when in the presence of his full team. A couple of thoughts and ideas to make your head stop spinning:
- Leaders play checkers, managers play chess. So says Marcus Buckingham in "The One Thing You Need to Know." When you're in leader mode, all the pieces move the same, so the message or policy is for everyone. When managing, each piece moves differently: focus on what's right for the individual in front of you right now.
- Lead in public, manage in private. Managing is an individual sport. Shut the door.
- Every group deserves a culture. If you're manager of a team of individual contributors and others - even if that group is just two or three people - start answering the question "What does it mean to be part of our team?" Better yet, answer it together.
- You can never understand enough about how people work together. Process, process, process. Leaders rightly obsess about it, and their teams get more out of it than you might imagine. Beware of any discussion that ends with "We'll figure that out..."