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Leading the way – How to show your staff you’re a Leader not just a Manager

There’s a lot of talk in the business world about being a leader, as opposed to a manager. And is that any wonder when you consider how people generally talk about managers?

We’ve all heard friends or colleagues complain about the monster manager who passes off their work, or the manager who never listens to staff concerns, or the manager who checks in on every tiny task.

Micromanagement is the bane of employees, with nearly 70% reporting it lowers their morale.

But it can be a difficult line to walk when you’re in charge of your team, how do you lead them instead of managing them? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered, check out our actionable tips to be an effective leader and not a lacklustre manager below.

Reactive vs Proactive

A manager is reactive, they respond to the situation as it unfolds dealing with problems as they arise. Whereas a leader is proactive, taking the initiative to anticipate issues before they arise, and they will always have a plan B. Be a good leader by always looking to the future and planning ahead.

Stepping up

If you want to be leader not just a manager it’s time to step up. Take your space at the table and advocate on behalf of your team and your industry. Sometimes taking your seat of power within the company’s dynamic can be scary if you’ve not been in a position like that before. But you not only have the right to speak up, it’s also expected of you, that’s why you were given the position to begin with. Live it up to the title.

Get involved

Be a leader in your industry not just your company. Start going to events with other industry leaders, offer to speak at upcoming events, or write opinion pieces for industry publications. Raising your professional profile like this shows you’re a leader and establishes your voice as an authority in the industry. Taking time to cultivate your professional profile will have the added bonus of elevating your status in your staff’s eyes. By getting out there for the industry you show your staff your leader rather than telling them.

Trust your staff

When it comes your staff, you must trust they can do the jobs you’ve given them. You hired them, you assigned their work loads based on your knowledge of their skill sets and their previous outcomes, so trust them. Micromanaging your staff not only shows a lack of trust in their abilities, but it also shows a lack of trust in your own judgement. Give them the space to complete their tasks without interruption and let them come to you when they want to discuss work projects. Your team will work harder if they feel they have ownership over their roles.

Be open to criticism

No one is right 100% of the time. We all have our blind spots and so it’s important to foster a collaborative dynamic in your team so they all feel they can speak up. As the saying goes two heads are better than one, get your team used to discussing and critiquing project plans and you’ll have a better proposal than other departments because you’ve taken the time to get feedback and open the floor to suggestions.

Establish your values

Your company probably have a set of values and these might line up for the most part with your values however it’s important to establish your own set of values in your work practice. What’s important to you and how do you define your values within your industry? Ask yourself these questions and then apply your answers to your daily decisions and workflow. If integrity is key to you then implement a rigorous fact-checking system for all reports, balance your decisions with value for your clients and the company. If honesty is integral to your work values, then practice what you preach and never lie to your staff. Whatever you expect from your staff you’ll need to model in yourself.

Inspire and motivate

A manager will dictate tasks to their staff, the approach is dry and tired and feels demoralising. If you want to be a leader you need to inspire and motivate your staff. Find angles that make the work exciting and challenging. Motivate your staff by explaining the purpose behind each task assigned and how they add up to create the big picture of the project. Helping your staff to understand the process and the importance of more menial tasks will motivate them to work hard on every small element, creating a better outcome overall.

Be honest

Your team should never be left in the dark. If there is change coming to the company you should be honest with your staff about it. If there have been some mistakes or if a project is scrapped show your staff the respect they deserve by telling them. You don’t have to share every little decision made by the higher ups, but being transparent with your staff shows you trust and respect them and they’ll return the favour. Read our post on how to become a trusted leader. 


One of the things about leaders that separates them from managers is mentorship. A leader will want their team to grow, to build, to become successful.  If you’re a leader in your industry you’ll have valuable insights and knowledge that can be passed on to those who are starting out. Getting involved in mentorship either in your own workplace or in your industry solidifies your position as a leader and helps to inspire the future leaders in your field. Mentoring can also bring you back what you love about your industry and inspire you to find your passion for the work again.

Sharing the Glory

If you’re a good leader, you’ll share the glory with your staff. When you are acknowledged for a job well done, raise up the team that brought you there. Let them know they are appreciated for their work and mention their efforts to the management teams. It’s important to acknowledge your team’s hard work and give them the praise they deserve. If your team feels appreciated they will continue to put in their best work. And acknowledging your team’s individual efforts in a project will show your boss that you understand the ins and outs of leading your team to success.

Anyone can be a manager but being a leader takes humility, strength and trust. Try out the tips above to hone your leadership skills.

Since 2006, Asset College has delivered quality, hands-on, professional training focused on flexibility and real employment outcomes. We enhance your knowledge and skills, empowering you to start a new career, advance in your current role or receive recognition for your existing expertise.

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