The title says it all! Managers are not always leaders, and leaders are NOT always managers. However, it is important to note that, often, a good leader is put into formal leadership positions (such as management) through the demonstration of skill, tact, and trust.
This is an important consideration. And the division between proper leadership and management is often never defined, or never noticed. It is usually just assumed that those in management positions are effective leaders, and should never be questioned.
This can be a dangerous assumption, especially if the reasons that a manager has for making a decision are based in anything but logic and fact.
Today, I want to discuss the most common mistakes that occur in management that show a need for leadership (or the development of a leadership mindset). These mistakes most often occur due to the formality of a hierarchy, and the inherent “unquestionability” of a traditional manager.
I would like to clarify that I am certainly NOT saying that it is necessary to distrust a formal leader in the corporate ladder, but what I AM saying is that there should always be room for the consideration of new ideas, and the logical reasoning behind making decisions that should be explained by formal leadership.
Formal vs Informal Leadership
Let’s define what “formal” and “informal” leaders are, as I will be using these terms extensively throughout my article.
Formal Leader: A leader that is assigned influence over a team or group of others due to their given place in the hierarchy.
Informal Leader: A leader that has influence over others, not due to their place in the hierarchy, but by the trust and understanding they display for others in their own workplace. These leaders often have developed, what I call, “the trust of the equal” among their teams.
Now, “the trust of the equal” is inherently what occurs between team members who are at the same position of the totem pole (hierarchy) within their organization.
No person in a formal leadership/management position can develop the “trust of the equal” merely because the outcomes and goals of each hierarchical tier differ from each other.
The reasoning behind the trust of the equal works like this, “We are on the same level, doing the same things, working towards the same goals, and under the same boss, therefore, we must have each other’s interests in mind when making decisions.”
It’s the inherent assumption of EMPATHY that makes “the trust of the equal” powerful. It is often assumed that formal leaders can only make decisions regarding the surface-level emotion of sympathy, a much less powerful driving force.
With that distinction in mind, here are the 5 management mistakes that leaders don’t make!
Leaders Shouldn’t Be Closed-Minded
It is often said that the most expensive words in business are, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” In other words, shutting yourself down to new ideas merely to maintain the traditional or familiar method of doing business is unsustainable given today’s ever-changing world.
This is often called the Manager’s Dilemma: The idea that, as you move up in the organizational hierarchy, there are fewer people from whom you’d accept new ideas.
The difference between tradition and stubbornness is intent. Tradition maintains customs or beliefs for the sake of culture, but stubbornness is merely an unwillingness to make an effort or the fear of change in general.
It is human nature to stick to what we know, after all. It makes us comfortable, satisfied, and effective for a short amount of time, that is until the entire world changes as quickly as a flash of lightning.
It is costly to be closed-minded in today’s day and age. This is why an unending hunger for knowledge is ranked on my list of the top 5 effective CEO characteristics.
The reason managers make these mistakes is by practicing the power they have over their team. In other words, they manage using compliance, not commitment. Check out this video to learn more about the difference.
In other words, a leader will or will not consider new ideas based on merit, more specifically, based on logic, reasoning, fact, and experience. Put simply, a leader will always make use of genuinely good ideas, because they recognize the value and reasoning behind those ideas.
Managers, on the other hand, may refuse to listen to a subordinate merely because they are subordinates. This decreases trust, puts the team at a standstill, and wastes otherwise good ideas.
Try your best to be open-minded as a leader. Try to catch any debilitating thoughts you may have of others or their ideas before those thoughts influence you. Try never to be biased about your decisions or your views on another person.
One of the best things you can do (and one of the things I love to do as a consultant) is put together break-out sessions in which people can write their ideas down on paper, and place that paper anonymously into a hat. The leader then reads and considers or discusses the merits of those ideas one by one!
Leaders Don’t Micromanage
Ah yes, micromanagement. We have ALL experienced a micromanager at one point in our lives and in one form or another. Whether it is your boss, family, friends, instructors, or anyone else, we have all been in this boat before, and we probably didn’t like it.
The single thing that micromanagers want is control, and it is usually an organizationally systemic issue. This means that micromanaging bosses often have micromanaging bosses of their own, further incentivizing them to take full control of a project or team-effort with the goal of producing the desired outcome for their respective boss.
The problem with micromanagement? Quite honestly, everything. Let’s discuss and list just a few of tho problems here!
Inherent issues with micromanagement:
1. Decreased trust.
2. Less-balanced workflow.
3. Decreased Motivation.
4. Less Productive Teams.
5. Less Team Autonomy.
6. Decreased Commitment.
These are just some of the big ones, there are many more hidden issues and concerns to be had with micromanagement that occur behind the scenes, especially concerning the power-balance and need for control.
Ultimately, consciously deciding to let back on the reigns and let the team take control of their own tasks and responsibilities does a few things.
1. It allows the teams to find and utilize their own methods for producing good results, meaning they feel much more in control and trusted to do their own work.
2. It allows the team to inherently apply their own experiences in order to adapt the work to them and their abilities, meaning that there is more commitment, and higher levels of innovation happening in the work flow.
3. The consequential innovation and motivation that occurs increases commitment, team autonomy, and productivity as a result.
Ultimately, good leaders are not micromanagers. Managers that want to avoid micromanagement should first attempt to understand why they feel a need for control, usually having to do with their own personal situation or placement under another micromanager in the hierarchy with strict expectations.
Leaders Clarify The Vision
This point is, honestly, very closely related to point number 2: Micromanagement. This is because failing to clarify the vision or “why” behind the team’s actions in the first place causes a manager to feel the need for control due to misunderstood team responsibilities.
Put simply, if a manager fails to clarify the purpose or “why” of the team adequately, the team will then have no clear vision with which to make important and relevant decisions. It is the consequential lack of good decisions that may push the manager to become micromanaging and control EVERY decision for the sake of getting the desired outcomes.
The issue here is that the manager is misinterpreting the team’s lack of understanding with a lack of ability. It is not that their team can’t perform well, rather than the fact that the team isn’t given the proper direction.
Simon Sinek wrote a groundbreaking book, Start With Why, in which he details the importance of purpose and communicating that purpose to others in order to increase results. In essence, it’s simple, those who understand the why can perform any “how” that it takes to get them there.
Managers often assume that their own understanding is clear and present through the way they interact with their team. This is often not the case. This is why good leaders often don’t tell people what to do as much as they show them how to do it. This allows them to purposefully connect the meaningful actions with their relevant purpose through an explanation.
in order to increase the productivity of the team, and to decrease the potential risk of micromanagement that exists, try to explain the inherent purpose of the team to its members. Allow them to take that purpose and make it their own, and you will undoubtedly witness the team’s commitment rise and motivation rise alongside it.
This will garner you trust as a leader as well as innovation and, possibly, the creation of new best industry practices!
Leaders Are Flexible
There is a clear difference between being a micromanager, and being available to your team when it matters. The difference is in a manager’s flexibility.
Often, when a manager only makes themselves available to their teams under very strict conditions, the team members find it difficult or overbearing to contact the manager for clarification of relevant and pressing issues.
This latency of information can be critical to the success of team endeavors. And it can be resolved easily with some added flexibility.
Flexibility has been the single most important characteristic of modern managers, especially now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the nation and caused decentralized teams to culminate from traditionally non-remote ones.
Being a flexible leader means being available to your teams often, yet avoiding the confrontational and overbearing aspect of micromanagement. Some may find this a difficult thing to do, but it can be easily done if you simply consider letting your team members know that you are available if they need help.
A micromanager is characterized by being needlessly demanding of the process, as opposed to the result. A good leader is demanding of the result (the “why”) and allows most any process to take them there.
This is why being available to your teams allows them the comfort of innovating their own process, while also giving them the depth of knowledge and experience that a manager has!
Being inflexible, especially with your time, makes team success very difficult. Try and put into place procedures and systems that allow for quick and direct communication between you and your teams. In non-remote environments, this is doubly necessary.
You want your team to feel comfortable when going to you for help, and you want to provide them the easiest way to do so in order to avoid lost or latent information.
Leaders Convert Others into Leaders of Their Own
Remember, just because you are not part of the formal leadership role in a hierarchy does NOT mean that you can’t be a leader of some sort. Informal leaders can be just as influential and detrimental to team success as formally positioned ones.
Failing to convert team members into leaders is like having subordinates that will only do what you say. This can get tiring, as it fails to consider the autonomy that a team has under good leadership to take action despite the immediate presence and delegation of their manager.
As strange as it sounds, a good leader is always trying to “work themselves out of a job” that is, to develop autonomy and personal leadership among their teams in order to make themselves, as leaders, irrelevant.
It sounds a bit backwards, but it’s true. You’d think that irrelevant leaders would be fired or let go, but that isn’t the case. This is because an outstanding leader is invaluable, and maintains the direction and influence of their teams despite the autonomy their teams practice when being productive.
Converting your team members into leaders of their own is about teaching them the way to think logically and make decisions with the “why” of the team in mind. Put simply, relate their actions to the greater purpose and explain why you, as a leader, think the ay that you do.
This is beneficial for increasing trust, because it allows team members a glimpse into your mind and reasoning as a leader, and consequently imprints that logic within their own thinking. Now, given a similar situation, they can begin to take action with full autonomy.
Remember, autonomy and micromanagement do not mix well, and we’d all agree that autonomy is the more satisfying dynamic for both leaders and their team members. This is why converting your team members to think the way leaders do is beneficial to creating a satisfying and happy employee atmosphere.
Leaders are made, NOT born. if you are a manager who has made one of these mistakes in the past, I’ll let you in on a little secret: We ALL have made some of these mistakes at one point. The true designation is whether you decide to learn from it.
Managers can become great leaders, in fact, they often always do follow that step first. Sometimes it takes experience as a manager before you can truly determine what does and doesn’t work for you and your teams, this is what converts you into a leader.
It takes consistent learning, practice, and improvement to be a great leader, but with some of the considerations above, you will be able to lead your teams like never before!
5 Mistakes of Managers That Leaders DON’T Make:
1. Being Closed-Minded.
3. Failing to Clarify the Vision.
5. Failing to Turn Team Members into Leaders.
If you’d like to contact me for more tips, tricks, or how I can benefit your organization, please click the link below!
Thanks for reading!
Work With Austin
-Austin Denison is a management consultant and coach from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life.