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Why The Distinction Between Leader And Manager Matters


Peter Done is Group Managing Director and founder of business services specialist Peninsula Group.

The difference between a manager and a leader is that a manager “counts the beans,” whereas a leader makes them. In other words, a leader inspires by example. For instance, in the early days of Peninsula when we only had about twelve employees, although I’d never worked in sales before, I went on the road and sold our business services. This taught me a great deal.

Firstly, our services were useful for small business. Even if we didn’t sell the service, the concept was always welcomed by the business owners, and they learned something. Most importantly, my experience gave me the credibility when I was leading the sales team to show that I had done it myself.

There’s been a wealth of iconic leaders throughout history, in business, politics, in the military and on the football pitch. I think the common thread among all these figures is that they led by example. True leadership is carried out with purpose, guided by a genuine sense of empathy, understanding and willingness to put ego aside. Doing what is right rather than simply what is convenient or easy.

It’s not enough to just know what you’re talking about and be competent at what you’re doing. Harry H. Truman said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

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Not all leaders are born, many of them are made through a series of tough life lessons and experiences. Leadership doesn’t come naturally to many, and it takes time to learn the skills needed to be someone people look up to. Even then, nobody’s perfect and there’s no such thing as a faultless leader.

A leader needs to be able to evaluate the difference between a manager and who has the potential to also become leader. Because they understand the team so well, they’re able to pick up on the nuances an average boss might miss out on.

Part of what sets leaders apart is their hidden intuition.

This goes deeper than simply getting along with your team, although that’s certainly important. It’s about seeing where everyone’s real talent lies, knowing where that talent is best utilized and helping grow and develop them in a way that gets the best results for everyone.

Ultimately, I believe the ability to get the best out of everyone is the reason why true leaders are admired.

Whenever someone in your team does a good job, let them know. Tell them just how much you appreciate it and point out what you liked most about their achievement. This can be as simple as a weekly email recognizing people on the team who have performed well.

This may sound like a lot of effort, but it doesn’t take much time at all and it’s worth it. Not only is recognition rewarding for the individual team member, but it creates an atmosphere of positivity. So communication with your management and employees is absolutely vital.

The leaders I’ve come to admire most understand that they are the figurehead and spokesperson for their entire team. When negotiating with people or companies outside their organisation, they always try to get the best result.

Leaders must always act with integrity.

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By this, I mean you must back up your words with actions and show that you believe in the things you’re saying. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t fly anymore. Do not blindly toe the company line. Leaders can’t afford to be hypocrites. They must be able to demonstrate that they hold themselves to the same standard they hold others, if not higher.

The leaders I’ve come to admire most understand that they are the figurehead and spokesperson for their entire team. When negotiating with people or companies outside their organization, they always try to get the best result.

The essential components of leadership are:

1. Know your business better than anyone else.

2. Make decisions; right or wrong, it’s better than procrastination.

3. Don’t be afraid of confrontation. You’ll get used to it.

4. Give praise when deserved. Give out constructive criticism when needed.

5. Lead by example. You can’t tell people what to do unless you’re prepared to do it yourself.

A final point—you don’t have to be the boss to be a leader. Any member of the team who understands what makes a good leader, how to get the best out of people and puts that realization into action can step up to inspire others. Whatever your role within the business, you can be a leader.

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Not every leader is a boss and not every boss is a leader.


Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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