Are You a Manager or a Leader?
Vanessa Best, WE NYC Mentor
Vanessa Best - Precision Healthcare Consultants

The day you have been waiting for as an entrepreneur and business owner has arrived! You have landed that coveted big account and for the first time you need help. Maybe you will hire your inaugural employees or engage independent contractors to help you fulfill the contract you have been working toward and dreaming of.

Your role is changing. In the past you were the business. Without you, the business would not survive. You’ve always done everything and been everything: salesperson, marketing person, shipping department, compliance manager, secretary and bookkeeper – and somehow you also found time to do the work!

This new stage in your company’s growth means a shift. Finally, you are allowing yourself time to work on your business instead of in your business. The business now has written procedures in place. Many tasks can be done without you. Oh happy day!

But you need to ask yourself an important question: does your firm need you to be a manager or a leader?

When you think back at the end of every day’s activities, you must answer the question “Did I manage my team today or did I lead my team today?”

Vanessa Best

Consider the following scenario:

Your valued and coveted first contract is underway when your team encounters a huge setback. Everyone feels the pressure and some pretty  extreme anxiety, including you. Your heart sinks. You feel a knot in your stomach. You begin to crunch the numbers. You look at the negotiated deliverables and discover an enormous problem. 

As the CEO, you decide to hold a team meeting, with a webinar for the benefit of your team members who work remotely. You fire up your webcam so every member of your team can see the passion in your face. You take a deep breath and dive into the meeting.

Which of the following responses do you get from your team after the meeting?

  • Everyone goes quietly back to his or her computer. Remote workers quickly sign off. The entire team meticulously follows your detailed steps exactly as outlined. No deviation. They feel calmer and clear on your directions and proceed with the project as instructed.


  • The team liberally provides perspectives on solutions, which can be folded seamlessly into your suggestions and integrated as part of a revised workflow. The whole team feels invigorated and motivated to dig in and do whatever is necessary to make the project a success.

Notice the difference? The two responses directly correlate with whether team members are being managed (scenario 1) versus being led (scenario 2).

This is an example of when stepping up to your role as a leader clearly benefits your employees and your business. However, as an entrepreneur and CEO, there may be times when you need to be a manager and other times you need to be a leader. Running a viable and productive business necessitates a customized blend. Whichever role you find yourself in, remember the value of your team members. You are their inspiration and you help them fulfill the company’s mission. You hired them because they bring skills and ingenuity that benefit your company. You are the catalyst to help activate their talents to propel the business to new heights.

When you think back at the end of every day’s activities, you must answer the question “Did I manage my team today or did I lead my team today?” That is, did you give them specific details on every aspect of their work? Or did you provide them with the opportunity to share thoughts and suggestions and inspire them to succeed even if they follow a path that’s not exactly the one you would follow?. Admittedly, leadership takes courage, humility and trust.

I came across a quote from Maya Angelou that gives an excellent perspective on my view of leadership as a CEO: "A leader sees greatness in other people. You can’t be much of a leader if all you see is yourself." I encourage you to be your team’s greatest cheerleader and you will always get the win!