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ARE YOU A LEADER OR A MANAGER?
10 April 2012

I recently read with interest an article in the Harvard Business Review by Marcus Buckingham entitled What Great Managers Do. Buckingham is keen to get to the bottom of the question - just what makes a manager great?

The article highlights the difference between leaders as opposed to managers. Buckingham is the author of several books and he draws upon his 17 years spent with The Gallup Organisation. During this period, he interviewed a number of the world's best leaders, managers, teachers, salespeople, stockbrokers, solicitors and public servants.

His research indicates that there is clearly a difference between leaders and managers. Put simply, there is one defining quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: they discover what is unique about each person and then they build upon that.

In his words - average managers play checkers, otherwise known as draughts - great managers play chess.

In checkers, the pieces are uniform and interchangeable and all move in the same way. Whilst a plan of approach is required, the pieces move at the same pace. However in chess, the pieces are very unique. In chess, each piece moves in a different way and without knowing this, you simply can't play. You have no hope of winning if you don't think strategically about how to best move each piece.

Great managers know and value the unique abilities, strengths and even the eccentricities of their employees and they learn how to use these qualities to their best strategic advantage.

This is the exact opposite of what great leaders do.

Great leaders identify what is universal and build upon that. Their job is to unite their team in the pursuit of a common goal. A great leader seeks to unify by the shared objective. This can only happen effectively when they remove the barriers of difference such as age, sex, race, nationality and personality.

An ability to perceive personality is the very thing that makes great managers. The job of the manager is to mould personality into performance - to identify differences among people and utilise those differences to the benefit of the team and the objective, challenging people to excel in the way that suits them best.

The critical challenge is to put people into roles that allow them to shine, whilst at the same time, avoiding situations where personality clashes will hinder performance.

Buckingham says that this doesn’t mean a leader can’t be a manager or vice versa, but to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires.

Are you a manager or a leader or do you find yourself juggling both roles? I would love to hear your feedback.



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