There is only one population of working people in the world that is larger than the population of managers, and that is the total population of employees. I would estimate that there are over 200 million managers in the world. That’s a big number, and is really just a back of the envelope calculation. Let’s say for the purposes of this blog, it is directionally accurate. In my eyes, managers make the world go ‘round.
Leader vs. Manager
That’s pretty amazing. The problem is, not everybody wants that job. Some people, in fact, only see the manager role as a means of attaining a leadership position. Sometimes, the role of manager gets denigrated to the point of disrepute just because it is not “leadership”. There is nothing inherently wrong with management. It just isn’t “leadership”. Everyone wants to be a leader, don’t they?
There are managers who want to be leaders. Then, there are managers who are content to be managers. I know some of these people, in fact. They are some of my wisest and most thoughtful clients. Some of you might be baffled by their apparent lack of ambition and motivation, but I assure you, it is neither of those things. Rather, it is a displacement of career ambition and motivation into a different realm of life – equally as valuable and as noble.
It's Never An Easy Task
Let’s look at just a few of the remarkable things that manager’s do:
- Managers transform people’s lives: They hire people, they fire people. They have the most impressive direct impact on the course of any one employee’s career life. That is a lot of power.
- Managers are the great motivators of behaviour: I’ll hand you this – some managers are better at this than others. But I do have a point. Any great invention, and every one of your favourite products, is the result of a manager who got their team to get it done.
- Managers persevere: The job of manager is filled with pressure. Day in and day out, managers must deal not only with the work task at hand, but also with the emotional, mental and physical states of the employees they manage. This can be a taxing and thankless position, for sure.
Why is leadership considered the place to be?
My theory is that we have become, as a society, infatuated with the idea of power. We are moved by people who inspire us – leaders. We are in awe of one’s ability to mobilize masses of people – leadership. We seek out those who are courageous enough to publicly and consistently live according to their values and aspirations – leaders.
These energies are the powers that create motion in people without force. We have ascribed all of these wonderful things to “leadership”.
The Unsung Heroes
What we have forgotten to do is teach people that all of these things can and are being achieved --in much higher numbers-- by managers.
Managers are the ones who channel human resources to get the job done. Managers are the courageous silent powers that give difficult feedback to struggling employees. Managers carry tremendous responsibility for finding ways to create fulfillment and motivation in the lives of every employee and colleague they work with.
In short, managers are not great managers unless they are also great leaders. On the converse, great leaders can still be great leaders without being great managers. What the world needs most is great managers.
Take stock of the impact you play in your managerial role and strive to be a leading edge manager. You will, by virtue of inertia, become both a great manager and a great leader.