Every organization, whether’s is commercial, nonprofit, or private has managers, leaders, mentors, executives, and followers. Many people assume that managers and executives are leaders. While these individuals may have leadership skills, being either does not make you a leader. A dog sledding team can help illustrate the difference in these positions.
To be a leader, a person needs to have a goal to lead others to. It can be a location, a deadline, a financial amount, anything. This person also needs to have an idea of how to there. The best leaders lead by inspiration and guidance. They lead by example. The lead dog on a team is out front, pulling the team forward, changing direction as needed to keep moving forward.
A manager manages things. In most companies, this translates into money, but it also applies to projects and people. A manager’s role is to understand each of his reports, and how best to position these people so they can complete work on time and on budget. The driver of the sled team fills this role. He understands the relationships between his team, and how to set the lineup. He watched over their energy, knowing tired dogs aren’t as fast. He ensures they are fed and taken care of. His aim is to get everyone to the destination.
A mentor is easy, that’s a person a manager or a leader can turn to for guidance. In our example, a veteran sled driver is a mentor. He can teach valuable lessons and help prevent tragedy.
An executive is someone who set strategy. He defines the actions to take and not to take. He then “executes” on this strategy by getting managers who will create the teams needed to implement the strategy. A good executive will then revert to a manager, managing his managers to ensure his goals are met. The owner of the delivery company that hires the sled team would act as the executive. This person defines what goods are carried, what areas the company will serve, etc.
Finally, last but not least are the followers. In many organization with hierarchy and trees, these are the nameless people on the bottom. Yhey are important. A good sled team is not may up of one dog and a driver.