Perhaps you’re in a leadership role but don’t feel like you’ve earned the respect from your team. Maybe you feel like they don’t even like you. As a career coach to millennials, I’ve had plenty of new managers come to me, desperate to win approval from their team. It’s a classic case of manager versus leader: they are managing their team effectively, but they aren’t leading them. So what separates a manager from a leader, and why does it matter?
A manager knows how to execute. He follows the rules and does everything right. He effectively delegates work, manages timelines, and meets deadlines. A manager can be counted on to get it done. Managers are a necessary part of any organization, but leaders will take things to the next level.
A leader has a vision and knows how to inspire a team to go above and beyond. A leader uses emotional intelligence to draw the best out of each teammate and empower them. Research shows that teams managed by motivators (aka leaders) perform better than those that are too heavily controlled by a designated supervisor (aka managers). In short, managers control while leaders grow.
Here are four practical steps you can take right now to elevate yourself from a manager to a leader.
- Leaders Leave Their Egos At The Door
A true leader does whatever is required to get the job done. If that means running the copier, making the midnight coffee run, or assembling folders, that’s what the leader does, even if his paycheck and title suggest otherwise. This approach not only guarantees that the work gets done; it also does wonders for the energy levels on the team.
One way to implement this is to pay attention to the unique brilliance of each employee on your team. If you see that people are exceptionally good at something, offer to take some work off their plate so you can free them up to make better use of their skill set. If you’re coming up blank on ideas for them, ask them what they’d like to do more of. They will respect you for getting your hands dirty, and they’ll appreciate you for making them feel seen and heard.
- Leaders Know How To Listen
Leaders listen to everyone, even those who might not have as much “experience” as other people in the room. The best leaders treat brainstorming as a democracy of ideas. They ask “what do you think?” and get everyone involved.
One way of getting more invested participation from your employees is to introduce a weekly team meeting where new ideas are solicited from each person. This is a great way to strengthen the team mentality, showing your employees that you want and welcome their brilliance.
- Leaders Have Emotional Fitness
Emotional intelligence—the ability to read and connect with just about anyone in the room—is great, but it doesn’t sustain you in times of uncertainty and instability. It wasn’t until I became a career coach that I learned the importance of emotional fitness. Emotional fitness is your ability to flexibly endure the ups and downs of business and life. The difference between managers and leaders is the way they react to and process the failed deals, the lost clients, and even the busted refrigerator in the break room. Managers freak out, sending tiny ripples of panic and chaos through the rest of the team. Leaders tap into an inner Buddha, an unwavering stillness that empowers them to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.
- Leaders Live Outside Their Comfort Zone
Playing a big game doesn’t always feel natural or comfortable, but it’s a choice that true leaders make again and again. As kids, we are often conditioned to go with the grain and to avoid disrupting our environment. We often keep ourselves from really being seen, and from being different. The problem here is that this encourages us to grow into very average adults who only feel comfortable when we’re playing small.
I’ll never forget the moment I stepped backstage at TEDxBerkeley. As the least seasoned speaker at the time, I thought I’d definitely be the most nervous in the room….The entire group backstage was panicked. Nothing this rewarding can possibly exist in your comfort zone, and it’s the leaders who are willing to wake up daily, stepping outside of theirs.
Leadership is part art, part science. A leader, like any manager, knows how to make things happen, but it’s often the leader who comes up with the ideas or inspires their team to innovate in the first place. If you’re truly ready to step into a leadership role, it’s time to go above and beyond what is required, and empower your team to do the same.
In the end, leadership is a choice. And the choice is yours.
By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
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