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Reflection Time: Leader or Manager?

Have you ever thought about the definition of leadership? Do you associate a person’s title or status in organization the defining factor that makes them a leader? There is a reason we have the words “management” and “leadership” and the two are not synonyms in my book. Management is the act of tracking tasks, projects, and other tangible outcomes. Leadership on the other hand is more than just making sure things get done, but putting in the energy to bring along and elevate people along the way.

More than a Title

Many people work in bureaucratic organizations where the hierarchy is reinforced to maintain order in operations. People are given titles that identify them in management positions, but this alone does not make them a leader. Being a leader means inspiring people to be motivated even if the work isn’t fun. Being a leader means influencing direction even if the path isn’t clear. Being a leader means innovating when the status quo isn’t working. These are things that people at all levels of an organization, community, and family can embody, regardless of their title.

Higher Expectations

The truth is that many people assume someone in a management role is a “leader” – or at least expect the person with the title to act in a leadership capacity. The disconnect is that there are varying definitions and expectations of leadership from person to person. True leadership takes individual commitment to do more for customers, employees, and stakeholders. It means rising to those higher expectations, even if it isn’t easy, because that’s what takes to take your organization, family, team, or community to the next level of success.

Reflection Time

Whether you are in a formal or informal leadership role, it’s important to reflect on how you impact those around you. Below are some questions for you to ponder.

  • What kinds of professional development do you invest in for yourself and/or your team? Why are you choosing these specific activities?

  • How often and in what modes do you communicate vision and expectation to those you lead? Is your communication style effective in getting the desired outcomes?

  • Do you hold yourself accountable for your team’s performance? Yes or no, and why?

  • Does your team provide you genuine feedback? How do you handle this feedback, both positive and negative, and what actions do you take afterwards?

  • How focused are you on the tasks, metrics, or outcomes versus focused on your employees? Do you believe you are putting enough energy into the areas that bring your organization more value?

  • What is the employee culture of your organization? What is your role in influencing its future?

I am a super fan of journaling and would highly encourage you to write out your answers to these questions. But if this is not your style, really think through these questions are you read them. Allow yourself a few minutes to truly reflect to see the impact you are making. Last question to ask: are you a leader or manager?


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