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Are you a Leader or Manager?

Almost 100 years ago, Mary Parker Follett described a manager as "One who gets things done through people". This description is still used by management educators and scholars today. However, this ...

Almost 100 years ago, Mary Parker Follett described a manager as "One who gets things done through people". This description is still used by management educators and scholars today. However, this could be enhanced to read: "One who gets the things the organisation requires the manager to get done, through the people who report to that manager"

These additions are suggested because:

- You become a manager when you sign on for the job

- You only become a leader when your people say so

You are given the title of "manager" by the organisation. People will do things for you, either well or not so well depending on how well you manage them, because of WHAT you are not WHO you are.

Only your people, your team, the people you manage, can give you the title of "leader".

Another way of putting it is to say that the organisation gives you your "corporate" manager's hat when you sign on. This lets everyone in the organisation know that you are now officially a manager. Then, your people, when they believe in you and only when they believe in you and are prepared to follow you, give you your leadership badge, your badge of honour!

Let me make a very important point. Managing can be described as more mechanical and so there are guidelines to follow, whereas leading is always measured through others' perceptions.

Here's a quick test to gain some indication on your current status as a leader.

Once you have been in your current role for say, nine to twelve months, ask yourself:

- "Would my people do the things I now ask them to do even if I were not their manager?"

- If you can truthfully answer "Yes", then you are well on the path to becoming a leader.

Many of you will probably answer this with a "Maybe". The road to leadership is a long one, but a truly rewarding one. If you are concerned that it seems to be taking you forever to develop as a leader, keep in mind the experience of one of the greatest leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison waiting to show how he could lead his country!

Are leaders born or made? Can I become a leader?

It might be reasonable to assume that leadership can be developed. However, there has been and still is, considerable debate on the issue. Even the experts are divided.

A colleague, Professor Preston Bottger who is Professor of Leadership at the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland, tells the story of when he was asked by his eight year old daughter's teacher to address her school class on leadership.

"How do you talk to eight year olds about leadership?" he said. So, being a professor, he asked the class the obvious question:

"Who can tell me what a leader is?"

Straight away a boy in the front row put up his hand:

"A leader does things first", he enthused.

His response was quickly followed by an equally enthusiastic girl who said:

"Leaders have followers".

Could the "experts" give us any better answers than those? - "Leaders do things first"; and "Leaders have followers".

Using the definition of leadership these children gave Preston, do you know any people whom you might call leaders?

When people are asked this question, they often respond with the names of famous historical leaders such as Gandhi, Kennedy, Churchill and more recently, Mandela. Chances are however, you've personally been greatly influenced by people around you who display leadership, but whom you've not credited or thought of, as leaders before. For example, parents, siblings, teachers, managers and colleagues who have acted as role models for you and whose advice you have followed from time to time.

In fact, we generally only think of these people as leaders well after they have had an influence on us.

Think for a moment about the famous world leaders that come to mind when you are asked to name leaders. Now, compare them to some of the people who have had a major impact on you personally. It's likely that these two groups share many of the same qualities, but more importantly, they actually do many of the same things.

What are these "things" that leaders do that set them apart from others? Can you too learn how to do them?

Leaders become leaders because they do at least four things for us that make us inclined to follow them:

1 - They help us understand and make sense of our environment So for example, when things aren't working out or are unclear for us, they are able to explain what is happening in practical terms that we can understand.

2 - They help give us a sense of direction. They are able to paint a picture of a brighter future and help us believe that we can achieve the things we want to achieve.

3 - They give us a belief in the values that are important to us. In doing so, they make us feel part of a team of people that share these values and have the same aims.

4 - They are able to make us feel powerful They allow us the freedom to make decisions about our life, work and the future, especially as a group. They give the group a feeling of power to achieve group goals - the group becomes a team under an effective leader.

Do these sound like some of the things your personal leaders have done for you? Probably those people who have had a major influence on you, all did these leadership "things" and by definition thereforeHealth Fitness Articles, can be considered leaders.

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Bob Selden is the author of the newly published "What To Do When You Become The Boss" - a self help book for new managers. He also coaches at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Australian Graduate School of Management, Sydney. You can contact Bob via

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