Does every leader start as a leader? The short answer is no.
While I do believe “natural born leaders” exist, it’s not the norm. In fact, the best leaders I have had the pleasure of working with had to fail over and over at managing before they were successful at being a leader.
Notice that I made the distinction between “leaders” and “managers”. There is one to be sure. Leaders create the vision and managers drive the vision. Managers are those that create accountability to drive results based off the vision. Leaders are those that inspire their managers to improve the company through the vision they helped create.
In my opinion, if a leader was once a manager, they get mad props from me! To me, that demonstrates they have experienced it. As someone with a keen eye for identifying and recruiting talent, I can say I would much rather take someone with the experience versus the degree. Experience provides empathy, compassion, and relatable quality to the field or the front line work that is simply irreplaceable.
Some of the best managers I know have the hardest job. They are the ones that are accountable for driving results that directly impact a company’s performance. Managers are the ones working with the teams that directly create the results. Therefore, they have a significant and direct impact on the sustainability and scalability of the company’s performance.
So how does a company define what success looks like in order to drive performance? Most times, there is clarity and alignment of vision, values, results, roles, ownership and accountability. Clarity and alignment are what create true innovation and movement in a company’s culture that truly drive results.
There is not a one size fits all for how a company’s structure should look. Your company may need only leaders, leaders and managers, or both. It may depend on the stage and size that your company is in, the projected growth, the management style, the product, or overall operations.