To Lead versus to Manage

August 13, 2014


I was recently asked my opinion on what sets a "leader" apart from a "manager". The answer for me lies in how the leader combines a number of key characteristics rather than any one particular thing. This is what I came up with.

One of the most defining moments in my career to date was deciding to take a risk leaving Accenture to try a completely different role at Fujitsu, moving from being a consultant delivering services to clients to an executive who was responsible for a major investment program and associated business transformation.  Leaving my comfort zone and taking what was, at the time a risk, proved in hindsight to be a turning point as it gave me an appetite for real business transformation and taught me that in order to become a leader, you need to embrace risk, welcome the discomfort of being outside your comfort zone and that to lead something effectively, you need to understand what it takes to actually deliver it.

An understanding that relationships are THE most important part of any career. I have lost count of the number of times that people have given me advice, acted as soundboards and helped me make decisions. For me they have been an intrinsic part of my career evolution and I cannot imagine anyone being successful without an ability to build meaningful, trusted relationships. People make the world go round and a life without connection to others is of no value and pleasure.

 A deep understanding that no “leader” can succeed without a fantastic team who believe in the mission of the team and choose to “follow” the direction set. Part of the leaders responsibility is to create an environment where the team can be innovative and everyone feels able to contribute, to lead by example as opposed to “telling” and to foster a customer centric approach. Be able to answer the question "why would anyone work for me?"

 A deep commitment to building trusted relationships, a refusal to abandon ethical principals and emotional intelligence are other things that set the "leader" apart from the "manager" in my experience. My advice to future leaders is to be your authentic self always, have the courage of your convictions, listen and support those around you.

 Lastly, remember that it is all invented. Someone, somewhere, at some point in time has decided what you think is the status quo. So why not take a risk and make a better reality that is more resonant and compelling to a greater number of people.