Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.

Thich Nhat Hanh, zen master and spiritual leader

This saying can be true of leaders too. All leaders are managers, but only a very few managers are leaders. Roles of managers and leaders respectively are poles apart. A smart leader is one with a “this is my responsibility” attitude, someone who is in the “my words, my actions, my behaviour, my efforts, my ideas, my mistakes and the result of my actions” frame of mind.

A great leader helps people in the team realise their essence, as it is a terrible feeling for any member to feel not belonging to the team. If feels awkward, it hurts as if wearing someone else’s shoes. Leaders who are protective of their title are always the biggest failures.

Management vs Leadership

Management and leadership are mostly mixed-up in the commercial context though they are entirely distinct skill sets. While management is process/task-focussed and concentrates on the current and immediate future, leadership is people- and future-focussed. Management is mostly about work whereas leadership is all about people. Management is concerned with work schedules, delegating tasks, deadlines, giving orders and instructions, guiding and monitoring progress, complying with systems, managing budgets, checking task completion, but a leader is more people oriented. 

Leadership is all about inspiring people, planning and prioritising steps, sharing a vision, providing focus, training the team, monitoring feelings and morale, creating a culture and positive team feeling, providing development opportunities, unleashing potential and taking risks. A smart leader achieves tasks by identifying the needs of the individuals while building and maintaining team spirit.

Basic Skills of a Leader

A leader’s role begins with setting expectations for performance in line with the given objectives and helping each team member nurture individual growth, development and achievement through daily interactions with them, helping them perform at the highest level, creating and managing effective teams while providing them with skills necessary to work with bottom performers and difficult members.

S/he needs to be an effective coach providing feedback to each member, be a good motivator with ability to organise huddles and meetings and an HR expert with sound knowledge of employment laws.

Advance Skills of a Leader

A leader is always a good interviewer and recruiter, a sound trainer and facilitator, a good project manager with the capability to deliver accurate periodical reviews. It helps and adds immense value to the team when the leader is a visionary, a good communicator, transparent, patient, good time manager, a risk taker and one who learns from mistakes.

Unless a leader values, respects and treats everyone in the team on equal terms, possessing all the above is just futile.

On a day-to-day basis, it’s the managers who actually work for their staff, the staff in turn serve the customers. Managers lose lot of time with too many meetings and too much paper work, in the process, forgetting that they are there to help their staff perform better, enhance their skills and progress in their respective career. Leaders should know their primary role is to define and achieve the task as well as manage effective relationships.

It’s unlikely that managers get promoted unless one of their subordinates is ready to replace them. That’s why leaders are usually ready earlier for promotion.

The Three Styles of Leadership

a) Task-oriented leaders

b) Democratic style leaders, and

c) Consensual style leaders.

It doesn’t matter much as to which style a leader adopts, the whole point is to achieve and maintain a sense of balance between: a) Task needs b) Individual needs and c) Group maintenance needs.

Pro-active leaders know what motivates their team members, whether it is security, stimulation, challenges or connections. All that team members want are direction, appreciation, respect and tools and resources to perform. Great leaders ensure good rewards, demand achievable goals, exploit reward systems, design jobs that gives the team members a sense of accomplishment and provide effective leadership through guidance and opportunities for learning and development.

Types of Leaders

Leaders are of two types:

a) Leaders by position where people follow because they have to and there is very little people engagement, and

b) leaders by disposition, where people follow because of what the leaders are and what they do. There is more people engagement.

A right mixture of both is the best. 

As a leader, one is being watched all the time, just like a goldfish in a bowl—a perfect setting to be the best role model.

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  • Venkat Balantrapu

    Transformational Coach, Insurance Consultant & Trainer, International Career Counsellor & Career Coach, NLP Practitioner & Master Practitioner, Columnist, Motivational Speaker, Singer, and Founder-CEO

    Weave Career (India & Kenya).

    Venkat Balantrapu has held senior management positions in the general insurance industry for over 33 years (14 years in India and almost 20 years in Africa including Kenya, Mauritius, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda). He is an ex-banker and has worked in the private sector as well for 5 years. He is currently the Founder & CEO, WEAVE, (India & Kenya) and a Member – Advisory Board, Paavana Insurance Brokers Limited, India and also represents Service Quality Institute, USA, conducting their customer service excellence certification programs globally. He is a member, Madras Management Association, delivering corporate programs on their behalf. He is an empanelled trainer for Kenyan Institute of Bankers, Nairobi, Kenya. Has prepared training modules for TATA AIG, India and HDFC ERGO General Insurance in India and delivers training programs for them. He is an MBA., B.Com, FLMI, AIII, ARA, and ACS.