It is often said that managers tell people what to do, but leaders show them how to do it. While it is undoubtedly important to have managers with integrity that motivate people, leaders are vital to the growth and development of an organization.
On the surface, the concept of a leader and a manager sounds more or less interchangeable. While the responsibilities and job title may be the same, there is a monumental difference. A manager maintains the status quo, whereas a leader pushes the status quo. Although there is certainly a time and place for both roles, positive growth stems from leadership.
Managers, therefore, must continuously strive to be leaders. Here’s why.
Leaders Drive Innovation
Where would industry giants like Apple or Virgin be today without the leadership of Steve Jobs or Sir Richard Branson? Their names have become so synonymous with their businesses because of the impact they had on innovation and the overall drive. Elite-caliber leaders are not satisfied with mediocre results or sticking to the status quo. Instead, they push for continuous improvement and strive for breakthroughs that disrupt industries.
According to Globoforce’s 2017 report, employees agreed that open, honest insight from leadership had a direct correlation to their experience and enthusiasm to pursue innovation.
So, in order to effectively implement a business structure that breeds innovation, leadership must instill a mindset in employees to push the boundaries and acquire the skills they need for success.
Leaders Shape the Company Culture
Culture issues are the number one reason why employees leave a position. Many attribute this problem to have a negative effect on their performance and overall experience with an organization. Leaders must inspire a meaningful culture by setting an example of proper character and behavior for everyone to follow. In this regard, soft skills and personality traits can determine whether or not someone will benefit the business in the long run.
While leadership can almost always be learned, there are some innate characteristics and learned skills that signal potential leadership qualities to potentially bring a company to new heights. Therefore, it is important that leaders set cultural standards in a workplace from the very beginning as they hire and develop the talent pool.
Technology proves to be a boon here. “Smart” AI-based recruiting software like Harver use algorithms to allow organizations to uncover talent that will mesh with their culture. Upon pinpointing skillets that pertain to the job description, Harver can provide specialized assessments to measure a candidate’s attributes, and take the guesswork out of the hiring process.
The system uses machine learning to test the applicant’s personality traits, situational judgement, and problem-solving capabilities, and in the process helps leaders identify talent that can contribute to the ongoing success of an organization.
Ultimately, leadership is what defines a company. This is a process that starts at the very beginning and continues throughout growth and development.
Leaders Inspire Trust and Engagement
Harvard Business asked 700 workers what qualities they thought were most important for leaders to have, as part of their State of Leadership Development study. 70% of the respondents agreed that inspiring and encouraging engagement in the office is a capability that’s very important for a leader to have.
Further, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace study reported that businesses that strive to create a culture of engagement experience tremendous benefits. These included lower turnover rates, 17% more productivity, 20% more sales, and 21% more profitability.
Stimulating such powerful engagement in the workplace requires more than just a few fun parties or pats on the back. Employees are often able to see through artificial attempts of encouraging engagement, so leaders must pursue authentic strategies to build meaningful connections.
Employees that do not have positive opinions towards the company due to internal issues will not be strong positive advocates for the brand. However, employees that work for a business that pursues genuine engagement through its practices and leadership will be glad to share their experiences with others. As Josh Jones-Dilworth, CEO of JDI, puts it, “Intrinsic motivation to share causes more frequent and effective marketing results. Essentially, pride drives advocacy, and advocacy, in turn, drives profit.”
Engagement software systems, like Culture Amp, collect employee feedback to provide leaders with diagnostic reports that identify areas for improvement. The research-driven tool works to find engagement motivators and provides a 360-degree feedback for individuals, teams, leaders, and managers alike.
One of the common threads of healthy cultures is that the company makes a point to put their employees first and encourages communal participation, especially in tech companies. Leaders should present an aura that others can be comfortable blending into. In order to achieve this, they must demonstrate integrity and strive to keep those around them engaged.
Leaders Find the Deeper Meaning of “Why”
Sadly, the leaders of most organizations today fall short when it comes to uniting their employees and motivating them towards a unified vision. The Gallup report referred to earlier also revealed that only 22% of workers claim that their leaders had a clear direction for the organization, and only 15% agreed that the leadership encouraged enthusiasm for future developments.
Effective leaders must understand the importance of transparency in the workplace and put an emphasis on the “why” more than just the “what” and “when.” Offices that follow a “do as you’re told” mentality often foster negative outcomes unknowingly, such as loss of trust and confusion within the workplace. Exclusively telling employees what must be done, without regard for providing the reasoning, is unlikely to stir up feelings of inspiration. Leaders must have a knack for conveying how everything from ideas to processes fit into the big picture.
Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others
It’s no secret that workplace productivity has been on the decline for a number of years. While there may be a thousand explanations for this phenomenon, the underlying truth is that the workplace is changing, with focus shifting from making profits to creating value.
The modern worker is a knowledge worker – and she needs to be happy at work. Two-thirds of employees surveyed as part of a Robert Half study said that under-appreciation would be a contributing factor in leaving a position. When workers feel that they are undervalued, motivation tends to wane.
This is where leaders need to step in and make sure organizations stay productive and creative on the back of rising employee morale. In the 80s, the Harley-Davidson company was struggling to make ends meet. They reported a $15 million loss as they faced fierce competition from less expensive overseas motorcycle manufacturers.
When Richard Teerlink took over as the CEO, he quickly revamped the entire company’s focus to providing stellar customer service – rather than focusing strictly on the numbers. He reignited passion within the business by working closely with employees at all levels to ensure that everyone understood their roles and the impact they had within the company.
By encouraging employees to develop their skills and get involved, Richard was able to turn Harley-Davidson into a financially successful and iconic business before his retirement in 1997.
This type of encouragement is what sets leaders apart from managers. While managers may get hung-up on the numbers and look for quick solutions, truly great leadership will make it point to look for the deeper meaning behind underlying problems.
Over to You
Leaders have the ability and presence to bring out the very best in people. They have a natural demeanor that garners respect. They push organizations forward.
The impact that proper management has on a business can be calculated by increases in profit, growth, or other measures. But, an inspiring leader can make an immeasurable impression in a workplace that drives intrinsic growth.
In order for a business to survive, it must have managers who are able to keep teams focused, on task, and organized. However, if a business is looking to thrive and grow, it requires leaders who can inspire teams to come together and push on towards unified visions.
About the Author: Lori Wagoner is a marketing and business consultant. She helps small businesses put in place growth-focused digital strategies. Lori is also a prolific blogger; she writes for Tweak Your Biz, Project Eve, Small Biz Daily, and many other business publications. You can follow her on Twitter @LoriDWagoner.