I’ve led a couple of discussions recently on the topic of leadership. The groups were very different (undergraduate students/corporate mid-management) but the discussions on what makes a good leader were remarkably similar.
What I found interesting was that most of the examples they provided were simply good management skills. They described people with good communications skills, who were empathetic, authentic, trustworthy (had your back), but were also able to make difficult decisions when necessary.
Those discussions made me think about what distinguishes a good leader from a good manager.
For me, that difference is summed up in one word: VISION
I believe a good leader must have a clear vision and be able to inspire people to share that vision. By being clear about what they want to achieve, they can align, motivate, and empower their teams.
Can you be a good manager without being a good leader? I think you can, though it can help to communicate a clear vision, even if it is simply what they want the team to achieve within a certain time frame.
Conversely, a truly visionary business leader may be a terrible manager! If that is the case, they need to work with competent, resilient managers in order to achieve their goals.