“Managers light a fire under people; leaders light a fire in people.”
– Kathy Austin
By Team Phoenix
Managers are found around every corner, but true leaders are few and far between. Managers rely heavily on authority, only care about the finished product, and want complete control of what is going on. However, leaders want to inspire, trust, and develop followers. This is done by inspiring a shared vision within your team and creating a productive environment to solve the issue at hand. Leading vs. managing is something that is brought up frequently in our program, and we are constantly reminded that leaders are inspiring and empowering, not bossy and controlling.
The line between leading and managing is one that I used to walk quite often. I have always been the type of person who loves to set others up for success. Before I joined LDP, that looked a lot like giving someone a list of things to do and telling them exactly how to do it. I always assumed that this was the best and easiest way to get things done right.
Since the second I became a member of the LDP, however, my perspective on that has changed immensely. A true leader doesn’t need to tell their followers exactly what to do and how to do it. What I have learned is that a true leader should approach their followers with a problem and be able to guide them along the process of solving it as a team. Not only does this approach inspire better outcomes, but it also inspires growth and trust within the team.
I used this approach during my project this year, which was MLK Day. I designated four subleaders and had them come up with plans of action for each of their projects with their teams. Not only did this approach provide better outcomes than I could’ve ever done on my own, but it was also a great learning experience for the whole group. As the leader of that project, I didn’t boss them around and give them a “to do” list, but inspired them to work together to improve the Science Center and work together as a team. At the end of the day, our team went above and beyond what was expected. That never would’ve happened if I would have managed the project.
A manager is someone who has a quota to fill and workers they need to make fill it. A leader is a member of a team who seeks to help push their teammates to be and do the best that they can. We’ve all heard the phrase “Whatever you say, boss.” and this is the type of response a manager will get. A leader aims to inspire the team to share their goals. They get the team excited about being able to accomplish the task at hand and to do it well. I have always been one to be given a task and assume that those around me are going to automatically be as committed to this task as I am.
While leading the LDP workouts, this quickly became very apparent. I couldn’t stand in front of the team and bark orders at them expecting to immediately be given 100%. I had to show the team that I was committed to their success 110% before I could ask them to do the same. I had to show my team how excited I was to watch them succeed, so that they knew I valued their time and effort and so that they could find motivation through my motivation. While struggling to keep my team motivated, I realized that a leader is a part of the team and that meant standing and working with them instead of just watching over them.
Getting people to listen to me has always been tough. It is not always clear how one should convince someone to do something when they do not hold any power over that someone. This is the most difficult form of leadership, but I believe it is the most organic. It does not rely on someone’s power over others to ensure tasks are done, but rather on persuading them to help realize a shared vision.
This is an area that the LDP has really allowed me to grow. The program regularly puts us in positions where we cannot simply demand that things be done, but rather that we inspire people to help get things done. This has required me to improve my social skills when interacting with my fellow LDP members, to boost my confidence within the group, and to practice my public speaking skills. The bottom line is this: if there is one thing that LDP has taught me it is that a good leader does not need to rely on their title to lead, they just need to inspire everyone around them.