A leader is "a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a vision"
A manager – “a person responsible for controlling or administering an organization or a group of staff, a person regarded in terms of their skill.”
We have learned that Leaders -are vision driven creative souls while managers are number driven goal oriented realists. Managers are usually hired to maintain and carry forward the legacy created by a leader, whereas a -leader is usually hired when a new direction is required.
Over the years, I have realized the lines between the manager and leader have blurred significantly. With the new age business scenarios, driven by fast-paced start-up culture it is imperative that each person dons multiple hats. Just being a manager isn’t enough anymore. Almost every other work situation demands a creative solution, more so in the ever-changing technology-driven current environment. It is impossible to maintain the status quo for more than a few months. Each problem expects a new solution, what worked well in the last few months might not hold true anymore.
Even if the situation does not arise that demands a push to change, in a technology-oriented organization, status quo often means a death knell to your bottom lines and a boon to your competitors.
Each new client/account/project brings in a different set of challenges and with each situation you are expected to come up with innovative problem-solving approaches. Every new approach is a risk; it could work, or it could blow up in our faces, and taking up this risk is what makes us a leader in that situation.
Once a solution is available at hand the same Manger-leader needs to gear up and ensure the idea is implemented as it was envisioned this is where your role as a manager needs to come to the fore. While implementing your own idea you need to focus on implementing and for the time being forget about coming up with any new idea that could confuse and disorient the team that is working for you. I have first- hand witnessed brilliant leaders fail because they did not have the managerial hat, and often in a startup culture the competition is too high to allow such a slip.
Often, we are faced with the question, what are we to be, a leader or a manager? It is normally a question that never pops up in its simplicity, rather some complex situations make you question yourself whether you need to don the hat of a leader or a manager to come out alive and kicking from the situation.
It has been my personal experience that, though it is often quoted that ‘leaders are born and not made’, it is not always true.
Experience often sows the seeds of a budding leader who can effectively help the manager in you to better handle a situation.
It does sound like we need to have multiple personalities in challenging situations. To a certain extent, a single attitude of ours would not work well to support the status quo and to manage a major change. We do need the driver and creativity of a leader to successfully take the leap for change. To start and make sure the change is accepted we need the consistency and single-minded focus of a manager.
To handle complex situations, it is the leader in you who can come up with out of the box ideas. But to make sure the situation is contained and managed successfully it is the manager in you who needs to gird himself and make sure the idea is fully implemented as envisioned by the leader in you.
So I would say that it totally depends on the situation that decides whether it needs a leader or a manager and then it is up to you to measure up to the expected role. But as a professional, you must understand this, being a leader or a manager will take you only this far, it’s the combination of two and their swift interchangeability in you which takes you long way, all the way