Leader v. manager: why does it make a difference? - Veterinary Practice
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Leader v. manager: why does it make a difference?

explains the difference between
management and leadership and
how the latter can move
practices much further into

THE business world is full of managers. So are practices – but has the time come to re-evaluate what you do and consider whether it would be better to upgrade to leadership? And what exactly is the difference between managing people and leading them? Have a think for a second: do you consider yourself a manager? Or do you consider yourself a leader? And if you said no to both those questions, is there really nowhere in your life here you take the lead? Where others follow your example because they respect you?


Traditional management has a heavy focus on ticking the boxes for all the tasks that need to be done in any business. Sales targets have to be met, so staff receive training to help them achieve the tasks more efficiently. There is a long-term business development plan that senior management hold tight to their chest – after all, what is the point in sharing it until they know exactly what tasks they need their people to do? Serious considerations around competitors and marketing are assigned to specific groups that have the knowledge and the specific skills to work on these particular tasks. All in all, the business gets done, the boxes get ticked and everything develops at a measured pace. Nicely and very much in control, seen from a senior management perspective.
Within smaller businesses, most of the above tasks may fall to one or two people. The pace is often hectic with little time to consider next steps, so the focus easily becomes the task in front of them – and the next one – and the one after that. Managers may unwittingly end up categorising employees in their heads as “doing their job with no problems” and “problem people that are causing upsets” – e.g. impeding the smooth flow of running the practice. And so people can become yet another task to be solved/dealt with/seen to/addressed.


Leadership, on the other hand, is all about direction. It is about knowing exactly where you want to go and believing so firmly in that vision that you are happy to share it with everyone around you. And it is about that vision being powerful enough and congruent enough with who you are that you inspire the people around you to want to go with you, to want to come up with the solutions and the innovative thinking that will make that vision
come true. Leadership is all about people. About understanding
people to the point where it is easy to establish what needs to
be done – and to then hand it over to others and let them get on with it in the way that they identify is the best possible. Leadership requires a light hand on the reins. It requires letting go of information control, because in order for people to truly work effectively and with enthusiasm, they need to know what is happening, and they need to have access to all the information they can. Adversity does not bring down a practice with leadership.
On the contrary, it encourages everyone to pull together and analyse their options in order to think of the best way forward.

How does it make a difference?

True leadership takes courage. Courage to trust and believe in the people around you, to believe that even those “problem” people may have a role and that they are only a problem, because you have not yet found them. The only truly “problem” people in strongly-led businesses are those who do not believe in the vision.
Because they are in the wrong place and will be happier somewhere else with a vision that suits them better. True, inspirational leadership comes from within. It requires that you know yourself, your values and your weaknesses. That you understand exactly what your vision is and why it is so powerful to you – because if it isn’t powerful to you there will be no drive to help you share it with others. And with no drive – there can be
no spark in the people around you, no activation of their internal motivations, and no free-flowing innovative thinking on their behalf. True leadership ignites the people in the practice. It changes the atmosphere into one of positive, enthusiastic participation. It encourages smiles, laughter, focus and determination. It makes the practice a place where people work together towards a common goal, drawing on each other’s strengths – whatever they are – and using that common goal to
benchmark all their actions. True leadership makes managers of
everyone else, because it changes the focus and the responsibility
into an individual one where everyone understands what tasks need to be done – and where they understand why they need to be done.
Leadership does not make perfect. But it does take us much further into excellence. True leadership has to start somewhere. Do you have the courage to step up to the plate?

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