What is the difference between a manager and a leader? While managers primarily serve to manage the work that other people do, effective leaders inspire those who report to them. Your job title may be more management-focused than leadership-focused, but studies have shown that managers who emphasize leadership skills over management skills in the workplace tend to have happier and more productive and passionate employees.
Effective leadership can help employees reach their true potential and succeed in their careers. While a manager may simply employ a “take it or leave it” approach to communication, a true leader adapts to their employees’ needs while providing the constructive criticism they need to improve their on-the-job performance. Constructive criticism involves highlighting some things employees are doing well, while also mentioning areas for improvement in a neutral tone (e.g., “I saw you did a great job with this last assignment, but you submitted it two hours late on Tuesday – it’s important to get projects in right on deadline so others in the office can begin their own work on that project immediately.”
Effective leaders set high but not unattainable goals for their teams. It might be tempting to aim high and settle for less if necessary, but sky-high expectations can be seriously demotivating for employees if they feel doomed to fail. And in the fast-paced work environment, finding time to thank your team for their hard work might seem difficult as you jump from one assignment to the next. While a manager may adopt the mentality that finishing projects and getting paid should be their own rewards, a leader would consider calling the team together for a quick round of cheers and congratulations after a particularly difficult project, and surprising employees with occasional perks. A leader would also tie together the success of individual projects to the success of the company as a whole.
Effective leaders also know their team members — and not just how they perform at work. They understand and support their employees’ personal lives, individual challenges and life goals. Emotionally investing in your team will pay off over the course of their careers with your company, so don’t miss this opportunity to create a workplace that encompasses so much more than just work.