Who do you think are the greatest leaders in history? Your answers might include Barack Obama, Alexander the Great or Winston Churchill. These people are all technically managers, but their inspirational personal qualities, charisma and vision sets them apart.
People follow leaders, they simply work for managers. Individual values are extremely important. Followers value the personal touch from their leaders, rather than a manager who asks them their name three times in a month.
For example, Steve Jobs is quoted in the Harvard Business Review as saying about his employees, “these are all smart people I work with, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But they don’t. And we got some amazing things done.” Honesty and integrity are also essential characteristics. Whilst a manager might break some of these for short-term gain, to smooth over the cracks in their work, or make life easier, they truly shine through in leaders.
A leader is born in the wrong century. They challenge the status quo and aren’t afraid to make people uncomfortable with the strength and audacity of their vision. We remember important names in history because they were well ahead of their time.
In 1847, a doctor called Ignaz Semmelweis noticed a disturbing trend where new mothers were dying because of an unknown illness known as “childbed fever.” Up to that point, people didn’t know that you had to wash your hands to kill bacteria and a doctor that suggested it even lost his job. However, Semmelweis created innovative chlorine disinfection measures that led him to discover the importance of hand-washing.
Today businesses often stagnate because they continue doing things the way they always have and lose touch. Innovative companies like Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo are biting at your heels to replace you.
Managers rarely drive their organisations forward with an emotional mission. The nature of a leadership vision means that it is emotionally charged. Some of the most moral and immoral leaders, from human rights activists like Aung San Suu Kyi to dictators like Stalin and Hitler have this emotional cause for their followers to join. This also generates a mythos around the leader over the years, making them seem even more powerful and great in retrospect.
Communication skills are an essential role in both management and leadership. The tone of this can vary significantly, though, as managers treat their people as subordinates, whilst leaders have respect for their followers. Leaders communicate with their supporters by involving them in their activity, whereas managers simply tell them what to do or try to just get them on side.