Not everyone needs to aspire to be a "leader".
But everyone should aspire to gain self-awareness to know and press into who you are, and how you have been created.
How are you wired? What are your skill sets? What are your habits? Where do your talents lie? These are all essential questions to focus on rather than wasting your time trying to emulate someone you're not.
There are 5 principles you can examine to determine whether you're a manager or a leader.
So, which are you?
This may be the most important principle of all. It's easy to look at successful leadership roles and think that they must constantly be running around like crazy to accomplish any number of things.
But if you peel the onion a bit, they probably only have three to five priorities on which they are focused. It's not about the number of things that they accomplish. It's about having absolute clarity and focus on the few things that are going to have the highest impact.
Leaders focus on a smaller amount of things that are more future-oriented. This allows them to put a lot of their thinking power into smaller buckets.
In management, the job is to focus on the now, and the short term. There tends to be a larger volume of short-term things, meaning the manager needs to focus on a lot more than just three or four priorities.
If you're a manager, there is nothing wrong with that! This is good recognition to have about yourself. You're good at delivering in short-term focus areas.
Creativity is a tricky one.
When most people think about creativity, they imagine it involves being a graphic designer or being the person who comes up with all of the most outrageous ideas.
The truth could not be farther away from that.
From a management perspective, a manager is generally maintaining what is already in place and making sure things are running smoothly.
Compared to management, "leadership" roles are more innovative. They are always trying to make new partnerships, or create solutions to problems that don't even exist yet. The leader's job is to think ahead of anyone else in the room with them, to go over and beyond creatively thinking and problem-solving.
There is a yin and a yang to skill sets.
On the one side are managers who are extremely effective in dealing with details. This quality is vital. If you're a manager this is something you must have. You are the best at whatever job you and your team are assigned.
Leaders, on the other hand, need to take a step back and look at the big picture. They are no longer responsible for looking at details. They are not the smartest person in the room, with all of the ideas on how to fix every problem.
What a leader has is the ability to take a step back and ask the right questions; questions asked in a way that will uncover the best answers in the room.
This is at the core of self-assessment.
This isn't about whether leadership is a better thing and management is a lesser thing. It's figuring out what are you good at, and being the best at whatever that is. The personal qualities have to do with what gets you excited every day.
If what gets you excited is waking up, getting to the office, figuring out what you're doing, and making sure all the processes are running the way they need to be, then you are in an utterly fantastic management role should be a happy camper.
Leaders, on the other hand, are typically not the happiest people around because they are always living in the future. They are continually imagining the world they want to live in and are never happy with where something is.
These are crucial personal qualities we need to realize we have.
As a manager, you typically know everything about something in particular. That is what a lot of these management roles are all about. You become an expert in something.
Leaders know something about everything. These are considerable distinctions.
When a manager knows everything about something, there is one area they specialize in and they are the best at that. If they are there they can make that thing happen because they know how it works better than anyone else.
Leaders may not know everything about how something works, but they know enough about everything to ask questions. They need to be the most curious person in the room every single time. To know enough, but not too much, and allow everyone else in the room to contribute their thoughts.
You're not looking for your ideas. You're looking for the best ideas: from the experts.
The bottom line is that leadership needs no title.
It's not about whether the title of manager is lower than the title of leader. Neither one is bigger or better than the other.
Recognize who you are.