Merge's Blog

The struggle to be a leader vs a manager (and how it’s easy to slide backwards)

I’ve blogged previously about the differences between management and leadership, most notably the Amazon situation I wrote about a couple of years ago, not just on the blog, but also in a piece for The Globe and Mail.  The reality is that almost all leaders go through stressful periods when they struggle with being a leader vs a manager; when it’s simpler (and perhaps critical) to concentrate on tasks rather than to invest in the building and nurturing of high-performing employees. The irony is that such a situation usually spirals downwards – employees get frustrated and make errors, patience dwindles and tempers fray, team members become less engaged, and the leader feels trapped and exasperated.

a leader vs a manager
What are the clues a leader should watch for?

Unfortunately, the only way out of this deteriorating pattern is for a leader to recognize the signs and act decisively to break the cycle. But how is one to know what to watch for?  Well, that’s exactly what I address in my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published this morning on page B11 of their print edition.  In it, I offer five things to watch for, each one a clue that you are sliding backwards from people-oriented leadership to task-oriented management.  You can read the online version here:

Five tell-tale signs leadership is slipping

So … are you guilty? In times of crisis, it’s easy to focus on getting things done (management) and lose sight of getting remarkable things done through people (leadership).  What do you do to avoid falling into this trap?  I would love to hear about your experiences.  The Globe has temporarily turned off commenting on articles on their website while they resolve some technology issues, so you can’t comment directly there.  But share your thoughts right here on the blog.  Please add your perspectives below.

Sometimes, The Globe puts my columns behind their paywall. If that happens and you are unable to access the article directly through the link above, we have archived a pdf version at this link:

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