Managers vs. leaders in the propane business

June 13, 2024 By    

All leaders are managers, yet not all managers are leaders.

Generally speaking, a leader creates a vision, a distant goal for everyone in their charge to work toward. They inspire and motivate and focus on direction without getting too overladen with failure and structure.

Managers tend to focus on achieving a goal, a team of employees and the correct execution of a process or structure.

Leaders are more willing to delay outcomes to ensure the vision is carried out and evaluate the terms and conditions of the team. Managers are required to have strong communication skills, make decisions regarding customers and operations, but could lack long-range vision and charisma to inspire.

There isn’t a single organization doing business today that can operate effectively without each of these roles being filled.

So why are all leaders then managers?

As a leader, you may not have “manager” in your job title, but you are managing what is happening in the bigger picture. The leader is giving corrective feedback to the management team to make small, subtle course corrections along the path to the completion of the vision.

So why are all managers then, in turn, not leaders? Are they not leading the team? Where does the disconnect happen that makes some managers not leaders? Is it education, or a full and complete understanding of the vision, or perhaps something deeper?

The Harvard Business Review puts it this way: “The difference between managers and leaders, they write, lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order. Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly – sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully.”

Leadership requires the development of people to work toward a goal. The active ability to listen, reflect and motivate as opposed to a manager’s approach of supervision, following a plan and measuring results of the output.

Now we come to the heart of this conversation.

I will also say that not all leaders have the ability to manage, and in contrast not all managers have the ability to lead. Each is an important and unique skill set in and of itself, but not wholly.

So are you a leader or are you a manager? Whichever side you place yourself on is perfect – that is, if that is where you want to associate yourself.

Are you a manager who wants to be a leader? Or are you a leader who acts more like a manager? Next month, we will begin to unpack these questions.

Let’s work on your upgrade.

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