According to some, being a manager doesn’t necessarily mean being a leader. According to others, managers are, by default, leaders.

Being a manager requires a different set of skills and can be complex to master. Effective managers need to understand that being successful in their role depends on two fundamental things:

  1. Being able to share and have the team buy into a clear and compelling performance goal or challenge.
  2. Helping each team member understand and leverage their strengths to most effectively contribute to the goal and be engaged in their work.

Of course there are other qualities that go into being a manager, but without these two, leading the team successfully will be an upward battle with the potential for severe challenges.

Now, let’s look at what it means to be a leader. Leaders help themselves and others to do the “right” things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership’s about mapping out where you and the team need to go to “win,” as a team or an organization while keeping the path dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.

Notice the difference between the two?

Fear not, there’s potential for overlap, and with creativity and practice it’s doable to be a manager who’s also a leader:

  1. Create a compelling “why” for the vision of the team and yourself. Explain the necessity and impact of the vision and how it pertains to team goals. Connect the dots as to how the goal relates to the purpose or values of the team and/or company.
  2. Make the goal specific instead of vague so the results can be measured. Motivate and inspire your team using rewards or other tools along the way to create buy-in and excitement during the project.
  3. If necessary, break down the goal into smaller steps so it’s not as overwhelming for the team. Create clarity to ensure understanding by team participants of their role(s).
  4. Build up the team as necessary by asking for feedback, checking in on progress, and managing the vision to keep everyone motivated and on track.

While “goals” can often be a stressful word, goals are important to help your team move forward, gain clarity, take responsibility, and build confidence. People have a right to know what they’re working towards, both personally and professionally.

When presented with a management opportunity, you transition from being an individual producer to being the person responsible for developing and motivating your team’s goals.

While managers may be leaders, all leaders are not managers. The choice is yours whether or not you want to be exclusive to either role. Being a leader isn’t easy; being a manager isn’t easy. Both roles take effort, responsibility, and a desire to step up to challenging situations.

While either position may not come easy, there’s an immense opportunity for growth and development. Depending on your personal goals, stepping into a management or leadership position has the potential to help you develop skills that’ll get you to the next level in your life, whether it be a promotion or parenthood.  

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark,