I have sat on several emerging leaders panel discussions where the question almost always arises, “How do I start becoming a leader”? And the answer is always the same – just start leading. A leader is anyone with followers. This comes into conflict with the workplace vision of a manager. A manager has specific tasks and responsibilities, they keep the trains running on time. A leader is anyone willing to move the team in an agreed-upon direction. Nothing slows a team’s progress faster than a leader who can’t stop managing.  

The manager focuses on the what while the leader focuses on the what’s next. The manager is constantly looking in the rearview mirror to evaluate past work while the leader is constantly looking down the highway and where the team can go. While the manager is caught up in details and processes, the leader spends their time on the strategy and the vision. Can a manager be a leader and can a leader be the manager? Absolutely. Just remember, a team gets derailed when someone only manages and never leads. A successful leader knows when to manage or who to delegate managing to. They may dip into a management role occasionally, but then strive to get back to their leadership role as soon as possible for that is where they make the most impact.