Why Your Company Needs A Leader, Not A Manager

Posted 16 February By Hanju LeeLeadershipNo Comments

Why Your Company Needs A Leader, Not A Manager

Have you ever had a job that you were just crushing? You were so good at it that eventually, you got promoted!! Well, congratulations! You are now a manager, managing people…which is fine, but soon, you’ll realize it’s an entirely different skillset AND mindset. Yikes!

Last week, we kicked off a new series about leadership. It comes after we took some time looking at the origin stories of some very successful companies. Almost all of them “started from the bottom” before reaching their goal; for this month, our question is: What did they learn when they got to the top?

One of the most important things to note is the TRANSITION that needs to occur between the bottom and the top. An executive coach I respect phrases it this way: “What got you here won’t get you there.”

Here’s how the leadership gurus understand it: Most people rise to the top by being good at their jobs. You go to school and get training so you can show up to work and be competent. If you’re good, you get promoted, which means you’re now in charge of the people doing the job you used to do. 

And this is how micro-managers are born. The reason they’re over people’s shoulders making their subordinates feel like they can do the job better is because they can do the job better – that’s why they were promoted. But they haven’t made an important transition as they moved from the bottom to the top.

“What got you here won’t get you there.”

The real job of a leader is not being in charge. The real job of a leader is taking care of the people in our charge. That’s the transition that separates a leader and a manager – moving from being responsible for the job to being responsible for the people.

Here’s the challenge: this transition requires great personal sacrifice. It means when things go right, leaders give away the credit to others. When things go wrong, leaders take the blame and give the people whose mistake it was even more chances, even though the leader is the one with the most to lose.

The reality is, it’s easier to micro-manage, accept credit, and pass blame. But that’s not leadership – it’s what Lawrence J. Peter defined as the Peter Principle: when employees rise to “a level of respective incompetence.”

Managers might be able to do the job better. But they need to be able to look back and remember what it felt like to work at the bottom, and what a difference it makes when the people above you have your back. Leaders have made that transition and now create that environment for the people they’re responsible for. 

Remember this statement last week? “People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.” If you want to create a safe environment and culture for your team to thrive, don’t manage, lead. How? Care for your team, protect your team, fight for your team, trust your team, empower your team, inspire your team…that’s the new role that will serve you and your company well in the long run.

That’s leadership.

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