As a school leader how do you want to show up? There are major differences between being a manager vs a leader. This post will explore five of those differences.

Differences in process

Managers care about efficiency. If you manage a McDonalds you want the super-sized “value” meals coming off the line quickly and without error. There isn’t room for a personal touch. Employees with ideas on how to improve the process can keep their “big ideas” to themselves until they are the manager.

Leaders care about iteration. They are constantly seeking ways to improve the process. Leaders accept inefficiencies because they know that experimentation, risk, and failure is the path to better outcomes. 

When it comes to process managers say, “Let’s go team, we’re on the clock!”

Leaders say, “Slow down. We’re not getting started until everyone is on the same page.”

Differences in motivation

People need to be rallied, motivated, and supported on a constant basis. Sometimes employees question why they do certain tasks in a certain way. 

When this friction occurs, managers say, “Because I said so … and it’s your job!” 

Leaders respond to friction through questions, “Okay, I hear you. How can we improve this process?”

Differences in their “why”

When was the last time you went to Blockbuster to rent a movie? At your next family gathering will you take pictures using your polaroid camera or your smartphone? On your commute will you take your horse or arrive by car?

When it comes to why an organization behaves in a certain way, managers think of tradition, “We’ve always done it this way.”

Leaders question tradition and design the school experience for a reality that doesn’t yet exist. They think, “How can we innovate this model of education?”

Differences viewing people

Schools need teachers. They are human resources that power the day-to-day operations of education. But are teachers more like a pawn or a prince?

Managers view people as cogs and say, “Get rid of her, she is easily replaceable.”

Leaders view people like my Fran McGreevy. He says, “I’m surrounded by gods and goddesses.”

People are highly intuitive. 

They listen with their eyes as well as their ears. They know what you think of them even when you don’t express those opinions out loud. How does your perspective of people help or hurt your organization?

Differences in power

Both managers and leaders have power. How they got that power is vastly different

Managers have power because of their title. They think, “I’m the boss” and people do what they say. Managers apply pressure to move things along. This works for a time, but only in a finite sense. Without the pressure or presence of a manager, the job doesn’t get done.

Leaders have power because of trust. They earned that trust through building relationships, caring about their people, and following through on what they say they’ll do. Leaders wonder, “How am I serving my people today?” and because of that care, their people get the job done no matter if the leader is physically around or not. 

If you liked this post, then I bet you’d like “What a principal is and what a principal is not.”

And if you’d like to super-charge your leadership skills, then I invite you to explore how the mastermind could help.

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