Are you a manager or a leader?

By Diana Spurgus

Modern leadership guru Warren Bennis said, “Managers are the people who do things right and leaders are the people who do the right thing.” To run a business well, you need both.
 
Employees, finances, sales, marketing, operations, and, yes, IT all need a manager and a leader. But that doesn’t mean you should be the one doing both.
 
Why leadership is your No. 1 job
 
Bennis’s idea is this: You need management. True. Managers budget, organize, react to situations, and solve problems. They ensure things get done, monitor the day-to-day functions, and enforce the rules. They are the tactical part of your business. You probably do a fair amount of managing things now. But just like everyone else, you only have 24 hours in a day. So some management tasks can and should be delegated, hired, or outsourced.
 
Bennis, who was cited by Global Gurus International as one of the top 30 leadership experts in the world, defines leadership differently. Leaders establish direction, align people, and motivate and inspire to prevent problems. Like it or not, everything in your business – good and bad – ties back to the leader. Unless and until you grow leaders inside your company, the leader is most likely you.
 
Five ways to differentiate a leader from a manager
 
Are you more of a leader or manager? Here are five leadership traits adapted from two of Bennis’s books, On Becoming a Leader and Learning to Lead,to help you decide:
 
  1. Managers set standards for performance; a leader sets a benchmark for excellence. Do you dictate a status quo or do you paint a picture of what the ideal is? Do you merely communicate what’s acceptable or do you encourage exceptional?
  2. Managers want employee compliance; leaders seek employees’ commitment. Let’s say you decide to streamline a process. To do so, you purchase new software. Do you just provide training on how to use the software or do you work on communicating the reasons why you’re doing it so employees willingly and happily dive into training?
  3. Managers have subordinates over whom they have formal authority; leaders have followers who are inspired to perform at their best. Leaders recognize that continual improvement in all aspects of their business is critical to their success.
  4. Managers try to avoid risks or minimize them; a leader looks for opportunities. Maybe it’s an investment in a new technology, or a decision to expand your business. Whatever the case, managers will tell you why it won’t work. Leaders will tell you why it can.
  5. Managers enforce rules and policies; leaders challenge red tape and bureaucracy when necessary. Sure, you should have and enforce an acceptable use policy for your computers. But if any of your policies prevent someone from helping a customer or generating sales, put on your leadership hat and throw that rule away.
 
One management task you can take off your plate
 
Your computer network, phone system, software and all things IT can suck up your time and resources and be a royal pain – if all you do is manage it. Checking backups, maintaining critical patches on the computers, updating anti-virus software and firewall protection, and dealing with issues that arise – these are all management tasks that can be outsourced.
 
As a leader, you can deal with IT differently. You look for opportunities to improve your company with technology, you use it as a way to help propel the vision for your company, and you deploy it to reach your goals. Then you hire someone to handle the rest.
 
About the author:
Diana Spurgus, MBA, MCP, CITP CPA, is president of Lancaster, Ohio-based Business System Solutions Inc. (BSSI). BSSI can be reached at ask@bssi.biz.
 
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