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Not everyone needs to aspire to be a leader.
But everyone should aspire to gain self-awareness to know and press into who you are, and how you have been created.
How are you wired? What are your skillsets? Where do your talents lie?
These are all important questions to focus on rather wasting your life trying to emulate someone you’re not.
There are five principles you can examine to determine whether you’re a manager or a leader.
So, which are you?
This may be the most important principle of all. It’s easy to look at successful leadership roles and think that they must be constantly running like crazy to accomplish a number of things.
But if you peel the onion a bit and really ask questions, they probably only have three to five priorities they are focused on. It’s not about the number of things that they accomplish. It’s about having absolute clarity and focus on the few things that are going to have the highest impact.
Leaders focus on a smaller amount of things that are more future-oriented, and this allows them to put a lot of their thinking power into few things.
In management the job is to focus on the now, and the short term. There tends to be a larger volume of short-term things, meaning the manager needs to focus on a lot more than just three or four priorities.
Creativity is a tricky one.
When most people think about creativity, they imagine it involves being a graphic designer or being the person who comes up with all of the ideas in the world.
The truth couldn’t be farther away from that.
From a management perspective, a manager is generally maintaining what is already in place and making sure things are running smoothly.
Leadership roles are much more innovative. They are always trying to make new partnerships, or create solutions around problems that don’t even exist yet. The leader’s job is to think ahead of anyone else in the room with them, to go over and beyond creatively thinking and problem solving.
There is a yin and a yang to skillsets.
On the one side are managers who are extremely effective in dealing with details. This is vital. If you’re a manger this is something you absolutely have to have. You are the best at whatever job you and your team are assigned.
Leaders on the other hand need to take a step back and look at the big picture. They are no longer responsible for looking at details. They are not the smartest person in the room, with all of the ideas on how to fix every problem.
What a leader has is the ability to take a step back and ask good questions. Good questions that are asked in a way that will uncover the best answers in the room.
This is at the core of self-assessment.
This isn’t about whether leadership is a higher thing and management is a lower thing.
It’s figuring out what are you good at, and being the best at it.
The personal qualities have to do with what gets you excited every day.
If what gets you excited is waking up, getting to the office, figuring out what you’re doing, and making sure all the processes are running the way they need to be, then you are in a perfectly amazing management role and you should be a happy camper.
Leaders on the other hand are typically not the happiest people around because they are always living in the future. They are constantly imagining the world they want to live in, and are never happy with where something is.
This is a very important personal quality one needs to realize they have.
As a manager, you typically know everything about something in particular. That is what a lot of these management roles are all about. You become an expert in something.
Leaders know something about everything. This is a very big distinction.
When a manager knows everything about something, there is one area they specialize in and they are the best at that. If they are there they can make that thing happen because they know how it works better than anyone else.
Leaders may not know everything about how something works, but they know enough about everything to ask questions. To be the most curious person in the room every single time. To know enough, but not too much, and allow everyone else in the room to feel like they are the smartest person on the planet.
You’re not looking for your ideas, you’re looking for the best ideas: from the experts.
The bottom line is that leadership needs no title.
It’s not about whether the title of manager is lower than the title of leader. Neither one is bigger or better than the other.
Recognize who you are.
Once you do, it is extremely liberating because you take off the pressure you may have on your shoulders.