A few years ago, I lost track of how many articles read, videos watched, and conversations I’ve had around the topic of:
Are you a manager or a leader?
They're all over the intertubes. There are long and researched white papers by college professors. Passionate TedTalks. A million PowerPoints, all attempting to delineate the difference between “management” and “leadership”.
And really – who cares?
The vast majority of people in leadership have the title “Manager”. Some have “Director” or “Vice President” or “CEO”. I never saw anything that indicates Larry Ellison is the “leader” of Oracle. (His title presently is Co-Founder, Executive Chairman & Chief Technology Officer).
You can manage people and lead projects. Or you can lead people and manage projects. I’ve had managers who have inspired me and leaders who repulsed me.
In 20 years of having my own workforce and leadership practice I’ve seen even more. I've worked with "leaders" who don’t know a thing about people. I've also worked with low-level supervisors whose emotional intelligence is off the charts.
On top of that is the rule of constant change: what makes a successful leader of people evolves over time. The definition of great leadership is different today than in the 1980’s (or the 1880’s for that matter).
Anyone can be a better leader or better manager.
Thus I've concluded the argument of “manager or leader” is irrelevant.
It's only for consultants looking to bill extra hours.
It's only for researchers looking for the next grant.
It's only for content producers looking for something (anything) to write about.
It's not real life!
It's doesn't matter what your title is. If you have people reporting to you, then you must begin by understanding one thing:
People come first. It’s not whether you manage people or lead people. It’s understanding that people always come first.
Great people create happy customers. Happy customers create more business. Great business delights your stakeholders and your community, and ultimately creates more profit. It’s not the other way around.
So the argument is only semantic and not worth our time. Whether you’re called a manager or leader, it can always be better when done with intention.
It's not about semantics. It's about people. lost count.