ANDERSON, Ind. —
Remember the childhood game “Follow the Leader”? Everyone always wanted to be the leader and with good reason. Throughout the ages, leaders have been the ones that went down in history, from sacred biblical leaders to a certain secular reindeer.
Like appearances, however, labels can be deceiving, especially when it comes to leadership. According to Dr. Jean Norris, a managing partner with Norton Norris, a marketing and training firm for the higher education industry, many leaders are more accurately functioning as managers.
I recently helped publish an article by Dr. Norris that addresses several myths about management and leadership in the workplace. While many people might prefer the title of leader over manager, Dr. Norris points out that organizations need managers just as much as they need leaders.
Fundamentally, people confuse the roles of managers and leaders. Managers align people to efficiently and effectively accomplish organizational objectives. The management function involves planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling.
Managers also need good people skills and the ability to encourage collaboration in order to make a leader’s vision happen.
In contrast, leadership is the process of influencing an organized group toward accomplishing an organization’s goals. According to Dr. Norris, several myths abound about the roles of managers and leaders in the workplace.
Common management myths include:
- The top individual performer is most qualified to be manager. The skills that make people outstanding individual contributors don’t always work when it comes to managing others. Managerial success includes not just technical talent but people skills and the ability to help others perform.
- Managers get to tell people what to do, and they do it. While managers have more power, authority, status, and access, none of this guarantees influence with subordinates. Effective managers must be able to persuade others and foster “buy-in” throughout the team.
- Managers have unlimited freedom. New managers often find they have far less freedom to act independently in their managerial role than they anticipated because of their responsibilities to influence and network with others.
Common leadership myths include:
- Leaders are born, not made. Because research has shown that human development is a result of both nature and nurture, Dr. Norton says that it stands to reason that both inherent personal qualities and acquired experience play a role in creating organizational leaders.
- The only school you can learn leadership from is the school of hard knocks. Actual experience is important to leadership development, but formally studying leadership (Indiana is home to several great programs including the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership program) can give you the tools necessary to assess, evaluate, and reflect on your experience.
Leadership is associated with a position. A promotion doesn’t automatically bestow leadership. True leadership happens at all levels of an organization.
Whether you’re a receptionist or a college dean, a bank teller or a vice president of finance, Norton says that leadership skills can be strengthened, honed and enhanced.
Whether you’re a leader, manager, or “worker bee,” best wishes for a successful 2013.
Susan Miller is founder of Ewing Miller Communications, an Anderson-based marketing and public relations firm. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.