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Are You a Leader, Manager or Mentor?
14 August 2014

Leader manager mentor

The Lifecycle of a Career

At various times in one’s career you could be a manager, or a leader or a mentor.  At some time in your career you could be all three.

First, let’s define each role –

A manager: someone responsible for administering all or part of an organisation.

A leader: someone, who by their actions, inspire others to follow to achieve common goals.

A mentor: someone who is recognised and trusted for their experience and knowledge and who imparts their knowledge and experience for the benefit of others.

A manager is generally more concerned with day-to-day activities, the KPIs for their department, the administration of staff in their area.  They focus on their responsibilities, fulfilling their job description criteria.  While they are probably aware of the big picture and shouldn’t lose sight of it, they are also aware they are contributing to and not controlling the outcome.  They do what is necessary to accomplish stated goals.  A good manager will often be inspired by a good leader.

The big picture is the primary focus of a leader. The leader is responsible for defining the organisation’s vision, ensuring individuals buy into the vision and empowering them to deliver the vision.  Leaders convey the values and passions necessary to achieve the dollars and cents, leaving it to their managers to actually deliver the dollars and cents.  While not usually involved in the minutiae or micro-management, a leader should not lose sight of the processes which enable an organisation to function.  A leader who listens to and consults with their team will ensure they create policy which is realistic and won’t impact adversely on staff.  A leader will be more aware if they have good managers providing them with accurate and timely information.

A manager will exert influence, ideally within the scope of their role, while a leader will influence behaviour by inspiring and empowering others.  While managers will often be looked to for direction, it is those who step up as leaders who provide the direction to follow.  A successful organisation is one where these roles operate within a team.

A quote from Peter Drucker illustrates the roles very simply “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Both managers and leaders will benefit from a mentor.

A mentor is not a coach.  Mentoring is a transfer of knowledge and experience, providing advice and being a role model.  Whereas a coach is usually teaching a process for a specific purpose or a particular set of skills.  A mentor is generally someone a mentee admires and respects for a variety of reasons.  A mentor will also watch the mentee’s back and haven’t we all needed someone to do that at some point in our working life.  The relationship is more informal where assistance and advice is provided teaching, counselling, encouraging and exposing the mentee to new experiences, opportunities and connections.  No time limit applies and time is freely given in the goal of fulfilling the mentee’s potential.

Whether you are a CEO of a large organisation, small business owner, departmental manager or just starting out, you can always benefit from a mentor.  Having a mentor is an asset.  A mentor may just be a sounding board for your ideas or issues or a mentor can help you grow at any stage of your career.  To find one early in your career, one who will support you and stay with you for the long haul is priceless.

Of course a manager or leader can also be a mentor or vice versa.  What defines a mentor is an individual with the experience, knowledge, and skills who is willing and able to share this with another individual.

One quote applies to all of these roles –

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.

Andrew Carnegie