I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the differences between managers and leaders. Managers do things right and leaders do the right thing–right? I think that this is an interesting discussion, but it isn’t that easy. Managers do leader things and leaders do manager things. Each of us is naturally oriented toward one or the other–we either are inclined toward structure, processes, policies and systems or toward strategy, inspiration, vision and people. But we can all learn to be either a manager or a leader or both a manager and a leader.
The Leadership Continuum
Many have described this as a dyad–either/or, a choice between two options. I see it more as a continuum.
A continuum that ranges from supervisor to manager to leader to Executive Leader to Global Leader. This is not to say that supervisors can’t be leaders or that Global Leaders (positionally) aren’t managers. There are cumulative skills, though, across those roles that are needed to deal with increasing complexity as a person accumulates more responsibility.
Moving Along the Continuum
Michael Watkins, whose books I’ve recommended in this blog before (The First 90 Days and Your Next Move) has a recent article in Harvard Business Review that is well worth the read. He writes How Managers Become Leaders in the June issue of HBR. Watkins identifies seven “shifts” that are required to grow managers into leaders. These shifts are:
- From specialist to generalist
- From analyst to integrator
- From tactician to strategist
- From bricklayer to architect
- From problem solver to agenda setter
- From warrior to diplomat
- From supporting cast member to leading role
These shifts require developmental experiences that change your perspective and force you to step out of your comfort zone. You also need to be exposed to regular 360º feedback that allows you to understand whether or not your behavior is working for you in the situation. And finally, you need to be dedicated to continuing to grow your self by challenging your assumptions, habits and behaviors to move along the continuum.