How to Master the Leader Role Instead of Succumbing to the Boss Title

Man leading a group of business people

You may not see a huge difference between a manager and a leader on paper. After all, both roles require a results-driven style and the ability to guide a team of employees.

However, managers and leaders take drastically different approaches to helping your business grow—even though they may have the same end goal in mind.

See, employees under a manager typically feel overworked and undervalued. They can’t wait to clock out for the day and they generally produce lackluster results.

On the flip side, those who work for leaders actually feel much more appreciated and as though they’re part of a shared vision. Employees following leaders are far more likely to produce above-average results.

This small shift in managerial style, while seemingly insignificant, can make a huge and lasting impact on your business. It may mean all the difference in taking your business to the next level and losing your best employees to your competitors.

To keep the talent at your agency, we’re going to discuss how to make this crucial shift in management starting today.

Follow these tips and you’ll have a motivated team of employees who will be more than happy to work with you to see your business succeed.

What makes someone a manager or a leader?

If we look at the definition of management, we see that it’s “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.”


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Managers are all about control and you’ll see this in the form of micromanagement.

A manager has their eyes set on specific results. They tell their employees how they think those results will be achieved and they stand close to ensure that their team is making progress according to their standards.

With this style, managers have little trust and faith in their employees to accomplish the tasks at hand.

For employees dealing with this style of management, “good enough” is never enough and approval is only a sign that you’ve completed one task and can move on to the next.

It’s not long before these employees start to experience distrust, diminished motivation levels, increasing resentment, and a feeling of unappreciation. All of these factors lead to high turnover rates.

As Peter Drucker put it so perfectly, “So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

And this is exactly what leaders have figured out.

The definition for leadership is: “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”


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Leaders let go of the reins and encourage employees to complete their tasks as they see fit.

Instead of simply enforcing the rules, leaders give their employees the autonomy to do what’s right in each situation, even if that means the rules need to bend occasionally. It’s not just about getting the job done for a leader; it’s about getting it done in the most efficient and effective way possible.

This establishes a mutual feeling of trust.

Leaders know they’ve hired the right people for the job, so they are confident that the job will get done without the need to micromanage. This frees up time for leaders to create a vision that excites everyone involved. And this shared vision goes well beyond the expected short-term objectives.

Agency team reviewing a project together

How Managers Affect Your Business

Now that we understand the difference, let’s take a look at how these two approaches affect the health of your business.

1) Decreased Productivity

If you’re constantly hovering over your employee’s shoulder like a manager, you’re losing valuable time you could be spending on more important tasks.

Not only that, you’re also making the task take more time for your team.

“The average office worker is distracted every three minutes. After being disrupted, it will take the same office worker another 23 minutes to regain focus on their original task,” as pointed out by Andrea Ayres of Crew.

So if you’re constantly interrupting your team to follow up on the status of each project or to see if they’re executing their tasks correctly, you’ll be wasting a tremendous amount of productive work hours for everyone.

2) Low Morale

Put simply, your employees can sense when you trust them completely and when you’re not so sure they can handle the tasks they’ve been given.

This lack of trust only creates a vicious cycle where neither party has complete faith in the other. When an employee starts to doubt their ability to contribute to the team, or if they feel as if their talents are being ignored, they’ll start looking elsewhere for a company that values them.

To boost morale, build trust and encourage your employees to succeed because you know they can. After all, why did you hire or keep them if you felt otherwise?

3) Stagnant Workforce

If getting the job done is the only objective, employees are not going to grow personally or professionally. This leads to a stagnant workforce.

Instead, your role as a leader should be to “unlock people’s potential to become better,” as Bill Bradley mentions.

This creates employees who not only produce, but also find solutions to your most complex problems. In the end, you’ll wind up with a team that can tackle anything instead of one that’s limited in what they can accomplish each year.

So here’s the biggest question: How do you make the all important shift to leading?

How to Make the Shift from Managing to Leading

First, you need to shift the focus from only meeting objectives to creating a long-term vision and overall direction for where your business is heading.

Next, have a rough plan in place for how your team will achieve this vision. Before you finalize it, brainstorm with your employees about possible strategies to take and really listen to their ideas.

Once you’ve gathered enough information, create a new action plan that’s focused more on long-term growth than simply meeting current expectations.

For this to work, you may need to challenge your existing systems. Be prepared for this.

With your new plan in place, it’s time to motivate your employees to achieve success.

Take a step back and encourage them to work through any obstacles they’re faced with. If one becomes too big or difficult, make sure they know that your door is always open for brainstorming sessions. Instead of seeing it as a sign of weakness, they should understand that you’re there to foster and bounce ideas off each other.

It’s also essential that you give your team the tools they need to succeed.

If one of your employees approaches you with a problem that can be solved with the help of a new tool, be open to hearing about it instead of tuning it out for financial reasons. If this new tool improves productivity, it will pay for itself.

Finally, as your new system unfolds, work on building trust with your employees any time you can. This is what’s going to help your team achieve a shared vision.

To do this, follow these tips from Geoffrey James of Inc.:

  • Focus on coaching instead of commanding
  • Be honest and tell the truth
  • Always follow through
  • Take accountability for any failures your team experiences
  • Give credit where it’s due
  • Don’t talk badly about your team
  • Listen more and talk less
  • Own up to your mistakes
  • Walk the talk
  • Make employee success your #1 job

Now that you understand the difference between a manager and a leader, it’s time to make the shift today.

Fostering more leadership and phasing out micromanaging will improve your employee retention rate and team morale. You’ll be pleased to see how far this simple shift in management style goes to build a motivated team that can and will tackle anything.

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