Are You a Leader or a Manager?

October 27, 2015

Fifteen years ago, I asked Joe Hogan, the then-CEO of GE Fanuc, to define the difference between a manager and a leader. He responded rapidly, “A manager takes it and does it. A leader looks at it and says, ‘Why are we doing this? Could we do it better? Is there someone else who could do it so he or she would learn and grow, and so I could do something more important?’”

The difference wasn’t an MBA from a high-powered school! Nope: Joe highlighted people who didn’t necessarily have high rank but definitely had the ability to get things done with other people. He was good at spotting the leaders. Joe left the company a year later to run a competing business. All the people he cited as examples went on to great careers. The most important quality they possessed was the emotional intelligence to solve problems without losing their cool.

The next time you’re faced with a conflict at work, ask yourself about the people who have points of view different from yours. How do they see it? Why do they see the problem that way? How do the perspectives of others fill in the gaps in what I know about how to get it done? When you appreciate the perspectives of others, you often get better solutions, reduce conflict, and save yourself time. Leaders raise their emotional intelligence and that elevates their profiles. Managers often just raise their voices.

Contributed by Laura Simms, SHRM-CP, risk and safety specialist for CoStaff Services.