Are you a leader or a manager? There's a bigger difference than you think

For safety professionals, leadership takes effort but returns greater rewards, both personal and corporate.

By Mark Hansen, Eagle Environmental Health, Inc.

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A recent book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, highlighted the differences in behavioral and thinking patterns between men and women. Similarly, leaders act and think differently than managers.

History proves that governments, nations, empires, and kingdoms fail for lack of leadership. Large multi-national companies as well as small businesses falter for lack of leadership. Sports teams and even families wander aimlessly for lack of leadership. More to the point, Safety Departments fail for lack of leadership.

If leadership is so important, why draw a distinction between leaders and managers?

Are you a safety leader or a safety manager?

I worked with and for many managers, but only a few real leaders. I learned how to lead from the leaders and how not to lead from the managers.

There is a clear distinction between leaders and managers. Managers are internally motivated toward their own careers. Managers are "me first" oriented. Leaders, on the other hand, are externally motivated. Leaders are "us" or "others" oriented. Managers get by where leaders have a vision.

Consequently, managers tend toward the status quo, where leaders champion change.

"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."--Vincent T. Lombardi

Manager defined

Webster defines manage as 1) to handle or direct with a degree of skill or address as a) to make and keep submissive, b) to treat with care, 2) to alter by manipulation, 3) to succeed in accomplishing. Webster defines manager as a) one who conducts business or household affairs, b) a person whose work or profession is management, c) a person who directs a team or athlete. These definitions imply superiority of one person over another whether or not the responsibility and authority is earned. These definitions also imply a philosophy of eking by day-to-day. There is no apparent plan to get to a goal. "Accomplishing" is mentioned, but it appears that such accomplishment is by accident. I don't know anyone who accomplished anything in the workplace by happenstance.

My definition of manager is one who merely keeps the place from blowing up--no vision, no plan, just get me to five o'clock.

Leader defined

Webster defines leader as 1) a person who directs a military force or unit, 2) a person who has commanding authority or influence, 3) a horse placed in advance of the other horses of a team. Webster defines leadership as 1) the office or position of a leader, 2) the quality of a leader--the capacity to lead. My definition of leader is someone with a vision that provides the tools the team needs, lowers the barriers to accomplish required tasks, and plans and assists the career paths for each team member.

My definition of leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want them to do because they want to do it.

"The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore."--Dale Carnegie

Qualities of a leader

What makes a leader a leader? What makes people want to follow a leader? There are many defining characteristics of a leader.

Motivation--A key ingredient to leadership is motivation. Motivation is a tool leaders use to get professionals to get work done. It is not just a manipulative tool, but a task list to support team members. Motivation has three components--energization, direction, and feedback.

Energization involves a secondary drive--what do people want out of a job, a position, a career. Secondary drives include motives, interests, and attitudes. Motives include security, self assertiveness, gregariousness, and dependency. Interests include exploration, competition, protection, mechanical, conformance, risk, moral compulsion, variety, self-indulgence, and precision. Attitudes include attitudes about self, life, and work. Once leaders discover a person's secondary drives, they plan methods by which people can achieve the desired results.

Once a person is energized and ready do something, they need direction. Direction includes why, when, where, and who. More explicitly, direction includes goals to achieve, what products to generate, and how they are to be integrated and used.

Lastly, motivation includes feedback. Without feedback, performance cannot be measured effectively. Feedback reinforces behavior, allows mid-course corrections, anf keeps goals flexible.

Integrity. People look to leaders to set the example and the norm. It is imperative that as Safety Managers makes the rules, they also follow them to the letter. They leave nothing to question and chaos.

Loyalty. Leaders are loyal to their families, their company, their employees, and themselves. They make promises sparingly but keep them faithfully. They serve the people that work for them as well as the ones for whom they work.

Courage. Leaders are brave enough to ask management for resources to complete tasks. Leaders are brave enough to give credit to subordinates where credit is due. Leaders take the heat for failures. Leaders have the courage to lower the obstacles and break down the barriers. Leaders also have the courage to make difficult and unpopular decisions. I wonder sometimes what would have happened if Moses had taken a poll when leaving Eqypt? What about Patton in deciding on pusuit when he was dangerously low on fuel? Leaders have the courage to do what they feel is best and not was is expedient. The result is not everyone following that leader will always like that leader. This is part of being a leader.

Communications. Leaders are effective and articulate communicators. They express themselves persuasively in group settings. They are comfortable speaking in staff meetings, the safety meetings, the board room, and the training room. They are comfortable speaking to small groups, large groups, professionals, and lay people. They enjoy conveying their message with conviction. Leaders generally speak last on a subject and then speak authoritatively. People listen to straight talk and down-to-earth attitudes. They listen to people that genuinely believe in what they say, speak well extemporaneously, provide emotional links to co-workers, peers and superiors, and exhibit strong, deep convictions. 

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