National Small Business Week

Are You a Leader or a Manager? Why Understanding the Difference is Important.

3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the owner of a small business, you’re faced with dozens of important decisions daily. With time, you’ve learned how to allocate your focus and prioritize your time. You might focus more on setting the overall vision and leave the management to someone else. While that’s a common tactic, it’s important to understand how those skillsets complement each other – and how to support both.

The leader’s job is understanding the big picture and getting people to buy into a larger vision. Unfortunately, leaders can sometimes lose sight of the day-to-day processes that help the business run. As a result, they can create policies, goals or even new products that aren’t realistic. Leaders need to know how staffers’ time is being spent and what obstacles might be getting in their way. Leaders need staffers to feel empowered sharing big ideas that can transform the company. So-called “skip-level meetings” with those taking direction from your senior managers is one way you identify if your teams have their priorities in alignment with the company’s.

Similarly, managers’ focus on daily tasks can distract them from the larger picture. Remember to step back from your to-do list and think about goals for the quarter or year. These might include investing in employees’ development or a project that can help set your team and company apart. Reminding yourself of the larger goal can help you better keep perspective and direct employees.

Regardless of your role, connect the dots between an individual’s motivations and the company’s needs. For leaders and managers, mentor relationships can be critical to understanding the people that make your company run, and aid in everyone’s personal development.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to find people who can help you grow. I sought the help of a CEO coach and I actively work on improving my leadership and management skills through reading (I’ve have found both Winning by Jack Welch (HarperBusiness, 2005), and Good to Great (HarperBusiness, 2001) by Jim Collins to be inspiring and useful.)

Seek out individuals that you respect and have personal, one-on-one conversations with them. The chance of retaining critical information increases dramatically if the time is spent with someone you respect and admire.

Whether you’re the CEO of a large company, the owner of a small business or a franchisee, the balance between leadership and management is critical. Know how they complement each other and you’ll be on the path to success with a team of dedicated, motivated employees by your side. 

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