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Can Managers Become Leaders?

Jennifer Post
Jennifer Post
business.com Contributing Writer
Updated Feb 01, 2022

Follow these five steps and become a better leader today.

Managers and leaders are not automatically one and the same. However, that doesn’t mean a manager can’t become a good leader. While there are a few key differences between managers and leaders, the two may not be as disparate as you think. Communicating well and celebrating team differences are among the ways to embrace your natural leadership skills.

Leaders and managers are not the same

It is often believed that managers are not leaders, and leaders are not managers. Although managers are responsible for planning, coordinating, and organizing tasks and activities within an organization, their role certainly demands leadership skills.

While a manager is a job title, a leader is a state of being. Managers oversee workers to make sure they’re staying on task, following company rules and guidelines, and generally adhering to what they’re supposed to be doing.

Leaders, on the other hand, can also have people who work for them, but more importantly, they have people who look to them for guidance or generally look up to them. The terms “manager” and “leader” are not mutually exclusive.

Leading and managing are two different roles that require different orientations and skills. Very few people are innately good at both. However, that does not necessarily mean that managers cannot become leaders. Leadership demands a few soft skills that, when inculcated, empower managers.

What managers can do to become leaders

“Natural managers” can take the following actions to transform themselves into better leaders.

1. Stop micromanaging.

Managing people is good, but micromanaging people is bad. Managers should provide more autonomy to employees. They should trust their team members and leave room for creative thinking and active participation in the organization. This autonomy gives employees the freedom to think freely and bring better ideas to the table. Those ideas can increase the productivity and efficiency of the organization. Therefore, managers should motivate employees to contribute more toward organizational growth.

Did you know?Did you know? Giving your employees autonomy can result in greater engagement, a more motivated team and higher productivity.

2. Communicate well. 

Leaders are excellent communicators. They ensure that the right message reaches the right person in the right way. To become good leaders, managers need to develop the art of communication. They make time to speak and ensure their message has an impact on the listener.

Merely doing the talking will not help. Managers must also listen to others in order to become good leaders. Leadership is not a one-person show. That means managers should consider everyone’s perspective when making major transformational business decisions.

3. Provide timely feedback.

A leader provides constructive feedback to subordinates so they perform better. Annual reviews are good and necessary, but employees need regular feedback for both personal and organizational growth. Feedback helps employees understand what works and what does not.

Managers should take the time to provide feedback at regular intervals so employees are not surprised at the end of the year when their performance is reviewed. Ongoing feedback closes loopholes in processes, and improves the overall performance of employees and the company.

4. Celebrate diversity.

An organization should not be composed of people from only one particular race, gender or background. It should be a diverse group of people coming together to achieve a common goal or mission. As such, it is necessary for managers to welcome people irrespective of societal and cultural factors.

FYIFYI: Diversity pools various resources and skills for achieving organizational goals. A manager should celebrate diversity in order to become a good leader.

5. Make self-reflection a routine.

Last but not least, managers should take the time to reflect on their own actions and decisions. A leader is always conscious of their actions and has clarity of thought. Instead of dwelling on the past, they look ahead and think positively.

Managers should be aware of mistakes committed in the past so they don’t repeat them. Cultivating the habit of self-reflection enables managers to become better leaders.

Traits that make a good leader

Adaptable

The most common trait of a good leader is adaptability. Leaders are resilient in difficult situations and see their teams through. If a curveball is thrown at them, the leader knows how to adjust to the situation.

Confident

Confidence is another strong quality of a leader. Pretending to be confident won’t make an effective leader. You must have the capacity to make definitive decisions and remain assertive in tough situations.

The decisions you make as a leader won’t always be well received if they impact employees, but employees will still have a level of respect for decisions made and delivered with confidence. It creates a trickle-down effect: Workers will more confidently take on any changes if their leader is confident in their ability to do so.

Inspirational

An inspiring personality is another trait of an effective leader. If you’re not inspiring anyone, who exactly are you leading? Leaders will offer an encouraging word when someone needs it and will provide constructive feedback.

While becoming an inspirational leader may require changes to your normal management style, it can easily be done.

Even-tempered

The ability to handle your emotions well is another characteristic of a good leader. Leaders are not known for their quick tempers. Instead, they’re valued for remaining calm and composed in high-pressure situations, retaining the capacity to communicate proactively with others.

Honest

Honesty is one of the most prized traits of a strong leader. Colleagues and managers value a leader who regularly demonstrates integrity. Being honest is how both managers and leaders build trust not only with their employees, but also with customers and clients. If they can’t trust you, they probably won’t want to work with you. Honesty is crucial for making sure every person is able to do their job effectively.

Image Credit:

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Jennifer Post
Jennifer Post
business.com Contributing Writer
Jennifer Post is a professional writer with published works focusing on small business topics including marketing, financing, and how-to guides. She has also published articles on business formation, business software, public relations and human resources. Her work has also appeared in Fundera and The Motley Fool.