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The Surprising Truth About Leadership & Promotions: How to Master the Shift from Manager to Leader

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

We’ve all heard that “great leaders are made, not born.” This phrase is often tossed around in conversations about leadership and management. What does it really mean, though? Is it true that anyone can become a great leader? And if so, what steps do you need to take in order to make the shift from manager to leader? Read on to find out!


Becoming a leader is not as easy as it sounds. It takes more than just having a title and managing people. To become an effective leader, you must understand the difference between managing and leading and be willing to make the shift.


Here’s a look at what it takes to become a successful leader in today’s world based on research of some of the most successful leaders out there!



But before you continue reading....


Reading Tip- Don't let the title fool you!

I also think these are great tips on how to get a promotion and get to the next step in your career even if you ARE NOT a manager YET (or don't want to be...I'm talking to my Millennials who may be over IT..and maybe Gen X-ers too)!


Managing vs Leading

The primary difference between managing and leading is that managers direct and control while leaders inspire and motivate. Managers are focused on getting things done, while leaders are focused on getting the best out of people. Managers are often seen as taskmasters, while leaders are seen as mentors and coaches. To become an effective leader, you must learn how to do both – manage tasks effectively, but also lead your team in a way that inspires them to be their best selves.


The Art of Influence

One of the most important factors in becoming an effective leader is developing the ability to influence your team members without relying on positional power or authority. This means understanding interpersonal dynamics – what makes someone tick? How do different personalities interact with each other? What motivates them? By understanding these dynamics, leaders can effectively communicate their vision for success and motivate people towards achieving that vision.


Are you tired of being a manager and feeling like you're just not quite hitting the mark as a leader? Do you feel like you're struggling to inspire your team and drive results? You're not alone. Many managers face this challenge, but the good news is that with some key insights and a shift in mindset, you can become the leader you've always wanted to be.


So, how do managers become leaders? It starts with understanding the key differences between the two. While managers focus on processes, systems, and efficiency, leaders prioritize people, vision, and strategy. Both roles are important, but to truly excel as a leader, you need to master the art of balancing the two.


According to Harvard Business Review, there are three key shifts that managers must make to become effective leaders:


  1. Moving from tactical to strategic thinking: As a manager, you likely spend a lot of time focused on day-to-day tasks and ensuring that processes are running smoothly. However, to become a leader, you need to step back and think about the big picture. What is your vision for the team or organization? How can you align your team's efforts with that vision? By shifting your focus to strategic thinking, you can inspire your team to work towards a common goal and drive results that align with your overall mission.

  2. Moving from managing tasks to developing people: As a manager, your job is to ensure that tasks are completed efficiently and effectively. But as a leader, your focus shifts to developing your team members and helping them grow both personally and professionally. This means providing feedback, coaching, and mentorship to help them reach their full potential. When you invest in your team members' growth, they will be more motivated, engaged, and productive.

  3. Moving from controlling to empowering: Finally, as a manager, you may feel the need to have control over every aspect of your team's work. But as a leader, your job is to empower your team members to take ownership and make decisions on their own. This means giving them the resources, tools, and support they need to succeed, and then stepping back and allowing them to take the lead. When you empower your team, you create a culture of innovation, collaboration, and accountability.

How to use these tips as a individual contributor:


I am a firm believer that you own your career; other people help you make it happen quicker. So stop waiting on the invitation to win or have a more significant impact- like Nike says, "Just DO IT.”

Even if you're not currently in a management position, the principles that enable managers to become leaders can still be applied to your own career path. By taking initiative, developing your skills, and building strong relationships with coworkers and higher-ups, you can position yourself for promotion and eventual leadership role.

For example, if you're in an entry-level or mid-level position, start by identifying areas where you can take on more responsibility or take ownership of a specific project.

  • Seek out opportunities to develop new skills, whether it's through on-the-job training, online courses, or networking events.

  • And don't forget the importance of building relationships with colleagues and managers alike; by establishing a reputation as a hard worker and a team player, you'll be more likely to be considered for future leadership roles.

  • What keeps your boss up at night? Knowing this is like having lottery-winning numbers. I've personally built a career on spending time to understand this when first starting a role, after a year in with a leader, or even after I made a mistake and wanted to bounce back to career glory! Then behave at one level than where you are. For example, if you are tactical move to strategic thinking to help solve a business problem. Easier said than done, I know, but challenge and push yourself to adopt these traits. You won't get those skills until you try to use them!

  • Remember, leadership is not a title or position, it's a mindset and a set of skills that can be developed and honed over time.

Start by taking a step back and reflecting on your current approach. Ask yourself, "Are you spending enough time thinking strategically and developing your team members?" strategically developing yourself? Are you growing or staying stagnant?


Are you empowering your team to make decisions and take ownership? Use this checklist to identify what type of manager you are and where you can make improvements:


  1. Do you spend most of your time managing tasks, or do you allocate time for strategic thinking and planning?

  2. Do you focus on efficiency and processes, or do you prioritize people and their development?

  3. Do you feel the need to control every aspect of your team's work, or do you empower them to take ownership and make decisions?

  4. By answering these questions honestly, you can identify areas where you can improve and begin making the shifts necessary to become an effective leader.

The Business Case for Moving from a Manager to a Leader: The Harvard Business Review reports that companies with more leaders than managers are 50% more likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance.

  • A study by Development Dimensions International found that leaders who are perceived to have moved from managers to leaders were rated 16% higher in overall leadership effectiveness than those who had not.

  • Overall, the benefits of moving from a manager to a leader mindset go beyond financial gain (but they do make more money) and can result in higher job satisfaction, more engaged and productive teams, and reduced turnover costs.

In conclusion, becoming a leader is not an easy task, but it is a journey worth taking. By shifting your focus from managing tasks to developing people, from tactical to strategic thinking, and from controlling to empowering, you can become the leader your team needs to succeed.


Use the checklist provided to identify where you can make improvements, and remember that the most successful leaders are those who are constantly learning, growing, and evolving.


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