From my perspective the underlying issue that never changes and links both leaders and managers is communication. Regardless of how you define a leader or how you define a manager the basic issue is how they communicate between each other, to superiors and to staff. Communication skills, good or poor will define each and every time whether you have a good productive leader or manager.
It is generally agreed, which ever theory of leadership is in style, that a core requirement of leaders is to provide direction, to outline the vision and point the organisation in the direction it needs to go. No matter if you are defined as a situational leader, a laissez-faire leader, a charismatic leader or an autocratic leader, the vision and direction still has to be defined and communicated.
Managers, on the other hand, are generally seen as those who get things done. They take the leaders’ vision and direction and turn it into practicalities. Managers put in place the strategies to achieve leaders’ vision. To do this they need to be able to understand the leaders’ vision and communicate to the staff how to implement it.
Communication you can see is vital to both leaders and managers. The defining difference in my view is how they use their communication skills and the differences in communication required to convey the vision, on the part of the leaders, and to instruct how to achieve the vision, on the part of the managers.
A leader will use slightly different communication techniques to a manager. The reason being they need to achieve different outcomes.
A Leader has to sell his vision for the organisation to the staff. He needs to convince the staff to buy into his vision, adopt it for their own and commit to the pathway that that the leader sees the organisation travelling. To do this the leader needs to have a clear understanding of where the organisation is going and needs to have the message clearly structured to convey this. A leader needs good skills at structuring the message, needs to have good word skills and then needs to be able to present the message in a persuasive manner. The leader needs to get commitment to the message so has to connect with the staff not only on the intellectual level but on the emotional level. A leader will use communication techniques that arouse the passion and level of commitment that is required. So communication skills for a leader will tend towards good presentation skills, charisma, passion and connection with the staff. This involves utilising great body language to back up the message and vocal variety to convey the passion behind the vision. If the leader can’t connect with the staff and sell the vision i.e. communicate the vision and the message then you will find the leader is less effective no matter what style of leadership or theory that is currently being espoused.
Managers on the other hand require good technical communication skills. Whilst they need to also be able to get intellectual and emotional connection with the staff, Managers need to be able to convey detailed instructions. They need to ensure that their message is clear concise and comprehensive. Managers need good conversational as well as organisational communication skills. Managers need to know their staff and how to change their communication for each individual to ensure that they have what is required to achieve the vision set by the leader.
If you accept current thinking that you can be both a leader or a manager depending on the size of the organisation and what is required at any time then underlying this concept is that you must also be aware of the different communication skills required by leaders and managers and know how and when to implement these skills.
Trish @ Trischel