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Updated Jan 30, 2024

Can Managers Become Leaders?

Anyone can be a manager, but it takes certain skills and traits to become a leader. Follow these tips to transform yourself into an effective leader.

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Jennifer Post, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Strategy
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Managers and leaders are not necessarily synonymous. However, a manager can still become a good leader. Communicating well and celebrating team differences are some of the ways to embrace your natural leadership skills. Read on to learn more about the traits of a strong leader.

Leaders and managers are not the same

It is often said that managers are not necessarily leaders, and leaders are not necessarily managers. Whereas 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, have people who look to them for guidance or generally look up to them, although, like managers, they also may have people who report to them. 

Leading and managing are two separate roles that require different dispositions and skills. However, managers can become leaders by exhibiting key leadership traits.

What managers can do to become leaders

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 your company’s productivity and efficiency, so managers should motivate employees to contribute more to organizational growth.

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Giving your employees autonomy can increase employee engagement, motivation and productivity.

2. Communicate well. 

Leaders are excellent communicators. They ensure that the right message reaches the right person in the right way. When The Harris Poll conducted the 2023 State of Business Communication survey on behalf of Grammarly, they found that leaders reported these top three benefits of effective communication: increased productivity (72 percent), customer satisfaction (63 percent) and employee confidence (60 percent). 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, though. To become good leaders, managers must also listen to others and 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 helpful and necessary, but employees need regular feedback for personal and organizational growth. Feedback helps employees understand what works and what doesn’t.

Managers should take the time to provide frequent formal and informal feedback so employees are not surprised when their performance is reviewed at the end of the year. Ongoing feedback closes loopholes in processes and improves the overall performance of employees and the company. A Gallup poll found that frequent, meaningful feedback can even boost employee engagement by nearly four times.

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. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, what a leader says and does can make up to a 70 percent difference in whether their team members feel included.

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Diversity allows you to pool various resources and skills to achieve organizational goals. A manager should celebrate diversity to become a good leader.

5. Make self-reflection a routine.

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 the mistakes they’ve committed so they don’t repeat those errors. Cultivating the habit of self-reflection enables managers to become better leaders.

Traits that make a good leader

Although effective leaders possess many positive traits, these adjectives describe every good leader:

Adaptable

The most common trait of a good leader is adaptability. Leaders are resilient in difficult situations and see their teams through these challenges. 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 a leader effective, however; 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 affect 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 take on challenges and accept changes more confidently 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 offer an encouraging word when someone needs it and provide constructive feedback.

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.

Did You Know?Did you know
An even temper and the ability to resolve conflicts are not only good leadership qualities but can also help improve your relationships with your employees.

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 managers and leaders build trust with their employees, customers and clients. If someone can’t trust you, they probably won’t want to work with you. Honesty is crucial for ensuring that everyone can do their job effectively.

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Jennifer Post, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Strategy
Jennifer Post brings a decade of expertise to her role as a trusted advisor for small business owners. With a strong foundation in marketing, funding, human resources and more, she teaches entrepreneurs about the software and tools necessary for launching and scaling successful ventures. From email marketing platforms to CRM systems, she ensures businesses have the technological edge they need to thrive while also sharing best practices for everyday operations. Post's recent focus on risk management and insurance underscores her commitment to equipping business owners with the services needed to safeguard their businesses for long-term success. Her advice has appeared in Fundera, The Motley Fool and HowStuffWorks.
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