Leadership is not always about being in charge

Great leaders inspire others to accomplish the mission at hand.

Leadership is not always only about being in charge. In fact, it often means that the so-called leader must be subordinate to the situation at hand. There is a difference between a true “leader” and a “manager”, though often good managers are good leaders as well. By definition, leaders and managers have similar definitions. However, a leader “leads”, which is proactive in nature, and a manager “manages”, which is more reactive in nature.

A good leader understands their strengths and exploits them when needed. A great leader understands and embraces their weaknesses, and strives to minimize their impact on a constant basis. As discussed in one of my prior articles entitled “Process Over Outcome Equals Long Term Success”, I briefly highlight the value of failure and how to apply its lesson in leadership.

Typically, a great leader fills voids by putting together a strong team of people who have strengths which the leader personally identifies as their own weaknesses. Now, this does not mean that they sacrifice their hierarchy within the organizational structure, but great leaders do understand that it is crucial to create the strongest team possible by bringing individuals with diverse strengths and expertise on to the team. For example, if a leader is strong with financials, strategy and planning, however is a bit weaker in creative areas of marketing and sales, they may want to ensure they have a strong sales person, a strong marketing person, and a strong web manager on the team to support the weaknesses the leader possesses.

Leadership, according to Mirriam-Webster Online, is (1): the office or position of a leader (2): capacity to lead (3): the act or an instance of leading. In other words, leadership is a learned behavior, often by experiences that are not all successes. The character built from failures is what sets a manager apart from a great leader. Leaders emerge over time. Managers oversee a certain area of responsibility or responsibilities, and ensure a successful outcome. Leadership is a quality that empowers other…management is a directive and supervisory approach.

So, what tips can help make you a better leader?

  • Always seek a better way; do not be complacent with the status quo. Not only based on outcome, but the most efficient, strategic, and morale inspiring way to strengthen their team.
  • Strive to improve on weaknesses and build on strengths.
  • Stay humble. A leader knows that they can’t do everything by themselves. Praise your team.
  • Continue to learn and pass along lessons.
  • Let actions speak louder than words and lead by example. Never ask anyone to do something you are not willing to do yourself.

Though these are not the only tips to become a better leader, they may be of great value in being the best leader you can be.

For more information about leadership related learning opportunities, check out the Michigan State University Extension offerings or contact your local MSU Extension office for upcoming professional development opportunities.

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