“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
So you are a leader. After all you have the title, you tell people you are a leader, so you must be a leader. In addition, your organization has said you are a leader, so it must be true. People will follow you because you are a leader. Your team will do everything you want them to do because you are this thing called a leader. You will get results that will amaze those around you, remember, you are a leader.
If only it were that simple. If it were that easy, everyone would follow you and your job would be easy. Those who are great leaders make it seem so easy that it can be hard to figure out what they do or how to emulate them. Sure, there are many managers around but are there many leaders around? What is a leader? What is a manager? And what is the difference? There are many definitions; let’s explore a way to frame it that will help you assess whether you are a leader or a manager.
We define management as the authority granted to an individual by an organization. An organization can make you a manager. They can, with their resources, give you the responsibilities to do things such as hire people, fire people, manage budgets, direct employees, and make decisions that affect your part of the organization. The organization can also take away your responsibilities and your power. They can take away your keys, your company issued laptop, and they can show you the door. Notice what is missing in this conversation though. Nowhere in this in this definition are followers mentioned. Yes, as a manager, you can have people report to you, and you can direct those people to do things that the organization wants. And, it is possible that those people will do the things you direct them to do, but that does not make you a leader.
On the other hand, we define leadership as the authority granted to an individual by their followers. This is where leadership can get difficult. By definition, as a manager you can direct an employee to take action, but only they can decide whether they will follow you or not. They, the followers, make you a leader. This is why leadership is difficult to do at times and leaders are many times scarce. As leader you must put in the time and energy building up trust and goodwill, so your followers will follow because they choose to. This trust and goodwill can also disappear quickly when your behaviors cause followers to lose their confidence in you.
Try this out for yourself. Think of bosses that you have reported to. Did you do what they said because of the authority granted to them by the organization? Did you simply comply because you did not want to get in trouble or wanted to keep your job? Or, did you do what they wanted because you trusted them and granted them authority to be your leader and influence your actions? My bet is that you can think of many managers and bosses you have worked for, and maybe not as many leaders.
Leadership and management are not the same. Any organization can make a person a manager, but leadership can only be earned from your followers, only they can grant you this special trust. So the next time you are in a situation where you need to get something done by others, think about why they are doing it. Are they doing it because their boss said to? Or, are they doing it because as General Eisenhower said, they want to? Your answer just might tell you if you are a leader.