A common opinion (and one that I share) is there is a big difference between being a manager and being a leader. I’ve heard it said: “People follow managers because they have to, people follow leaders because they want to.” The difference between those words – have and want – can be massive. When you are required to do a task, there is almost a reluctance right from the start to get it done. We all have things we must do in life like paying taxes each year, and we can take different attitudes toward the MUSTs in life. The positive spin placed on a HAVE TO or a MUST task comes from a distinct effort on each person’s part to look at life and its challenges this way. Applying the word WANT to the same project, there is no such effort for positivity. The implication of the word WANT is that it is a desired action – something we are looking forward to or volunteering to accomplish. The word WANT turns a drudge into a delight.
Unfortunately many managers feel they are leaders just by virtue of their positions. This is the downfall of many businesses – positional leadership is different from true leadership. Positional leadership gives people the authority as well as the responsibility of a team’s accomplishments. A key point is that people with this type of leadership are appointed in some fashion by someone above them. This is not to say the person didn’t earn his or her position through hard work or good results; the idea is that is not enough to demonstrate true leadership. For example, when I was in the Navy, I had many people with positional authority over me just through their rank. Unless the order given was unethical or immoral, I had to follow the directions given. My Executive Officer was one such positional leader. He gave directions will little thought to the consequences or impact to the person or team involved; he just wanted his order followed immediately. As discussed in a previous post, giving and following orders will only accomplish the minimum level required for success. If the person giving the order were a true leader, there is a high potential the results provided would be of a better caliber. My last department head (direct boss) worked with us as a team to outline all the tasks required and the workload to balance out the effort. Not only did he give us orders, he also gave us guidance and support in order to get the orders followed. The results were then often better, quicker, and the effort included more drive.
It is my own belief that a positional leader is like a dictator – leading through fear, intimidation or consequences. A true leader has no need for such negative impetus because the people following are doing so willingly and with energy.
CEO, The Professional Development Team