Of course, we need to do both. But to improve at either, we must be conscious of what we are trying to do as a leader or manager, and then evolve our approaches to get better outcomes.
Leaders get out in front and encourage others to follow them. It is an appeal to the heart or the emotions, to inspire and motivate others. The passion and enthusiasm in a leader’s voice and body language are key elements in being able to get others to feel as they do. Leaders tell inspirational stories about how their nonprofit helped a particular individual overcome a difficulty, or the extraordinary contribution that an employee, volunteer or donor made that resulted in a wonderful outcome. These stories can inspire others to do likewise. Leaders spend time deliberately looking for motivational materials and stories so that they are always prepared with a new way of being inspirational almost every time they reconnect with an employee, volunteer, client or donor. That’s what leaders do.
On the other hand, managers are much more concerned with what people are doing and plan to do. When managers reconnect with an employee or volunteer, they are likely to ask lots of questions about what the person is currently working on, how and when they plan to complete that work, what they expect the result to be, and any issues they have with how things are being done. This can give employees and volunteers the satisfying feeling that they and the work they do is really important to the nonprofit. It also gives the manager the information that they need to decide if there are ways to get better results through better methods, deployments and/or coordination. That’s what managers do.
In order to be better managers and leaders, we need to maintain an awareness of whether we are trying to lead or manage, and continually assess our effectiveness in those roles. And if we spend a lot of time that is neither leading nor managing, why are we doing that, and what is the purpose of those other efforts?