April 7


Shifting from Manager to Leader

By Sara Canaday

April 7, 2017

career success, leadership, leadership behaviors, leadership development, leadership skills, management, professional development

Just because you have a management title doesn’t automatically mean you’re a great leader. But making that sometimes-subtle shift is essential for the success of your career and your organization.

There’s a lot at stake.

So what’s the real difference between management and leadership? Effective managers are task-focused and might be described as dependable and organized. On the other hand, dynamic leaders are innovative and inspiring. It’s like comparing a small pond with the ocean.

Think about colleagues and co-workers who display some of these attributes:

Managers Leaders
Knowledgeable Insightful
Action-Oriented Visionary
Informed Influential
Tactical Strategic
Instructional Inspirational


All of these characteristics are positive, but compare the impact of the first-column attributes with those of the second. No contest, right? Real leaders take management to a higher level—and the results are undeniable.

If you want to successfully make the shift from manager to leader, here are three strategies to guide you in the transition.

First, enhance your personal growth.

Honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, your emotions and motivations. Do you have a solid understanding of the values that drive the way you lead and influence others? Developing this level of self-awareness is usually linked to higher emotional intelligence. By making it a priority to increase your intangible skills, you’ll quickly be recognized as someone with higher leadership potential.

You can also work to improve your leadership impact by increasing your executive presence. Specifically, you might take steps to upgrade your visual appearance and polish your presentation skills. In that same realm, you can focus more on knowledge acquisition to establish yourself as a thought leader—someone whose opinions and insights are regularly sought out and respected.

Second, expand your perspectives.

Instead of thinking tactically, extend your business horizon to make decisions more strategically. Shift from short-term to long-term. Consider global perspectives, particularly if you are working with virtual or dispersed teams. One way to help you maintain this big-picture perspective is by regularly linking day-to-day performance with broader implications for the company’s future.

Don’t allow yourself to get into a rut. Try to view challenges with a fresh lens, and let go of old processes and procedures that don’t provide value. Encourage and reward innovation on your teams.

Third, energize people and relationships.

Recognize that leadership success isn’t just about reaching quarterly sales numbers; it’s about growing teams and developing up-and-coming leaders. Think of it as participating in perpetual talent management. You’ll be perceived as a leader when you consistently identify, attract, hire, and promote top talent to keep the organization moving forward.

Another way to establish a leadership position is by coaching your team members to help them grow and develop at a faster pace. Genuinely engage with them, and ensure they have the resources and support they need. Instead of simply assigning tasks, inspire them by cultivating conditions for success.

Building positive relationships at every level, inside and outside of the company, will further display your abilities as a genuine leader. Show that you can communicate effectively with customers, peers, direct reports, stakeholders, senior-level executives, and industry contacts.

Making the transition from manager to leader is a process that involves deliberate changes and intentional shifts. But when you strategically make those moves, you’ll be poised to take advantage of the positive results—for your organization and for your career.

For more information about this topic, I invite you to take my “Transition from Manager to Leader” course on Lynda/LinkedIn Learning and/or visit my website at www.saracanaday.com.

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

  • So true. The leader trait should develop with Managera who look forward to the next level.of career growth. This coaching should start from management with the identified potential leaders of future.
    Managers should start detaching from fire fighting mode.

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