Evolving from Manager to Leader: How to Develop Leadership Presence

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

~ Lao Tzu

Most people understand there is a difference between managers and leaders. However, when asked specifically what those differences are, it becomes a discussion of qualitative, ethereal qualities, often centering on “Managers are trained; leaders are born.” Although it’s true some people are naturally born, it’s possible for any manager to evolve into a true leader, through the development of leadership presence.

Whether you’re in charge of one employee or one thousand, developing leadership presence begins with trust. Trust that you will lead your employees down the correct path. Trust that you will not only work in the best interest of the organization, but in their best interest as well. Trust that you will treat them fairly. Trust that placing their careers in your hands will, in the end, benefit them.

To build this trust, and begin the development of leadership presence, true leaders develop a symbiotic relationship with their employees.

  • Where managers direct, leaders inspire
  • Where managers decide, leaders collaborate
  • Where managers train, leaders empower

To develop leadership presence, engage your employees in conversations. Discover what their goals and dreams are, and discuss how these align with the organization’s mission and ways you can work together to bring these goals to fruition and make their dreams a reality. Together, develop action plans that go beyond simply accomplishing tasks needed to meet the organization’s goals, but also help them step toward their goals. Empower your employees, and they will follow you not out of duty but out of desire!

These conversations are also your opportunity to collaborate with your employees, as you develop and demonstrate your leadership presence. Change is the only certainty within an organization. Collaborating instead of implementing decisions can help garner employee buy-in to these changes. Where managers dread change and the challenges that often occur, leaders with true leadership presence know change opens the doors to opportunities. They use these opportunities to lead their people toward acceptance and implementation of this change.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, empowering your employees is the final step in evolving from manager to leader and developing leadership presence. You’ll have leadership presence when you’ve stopped using your power over your employees and instead inspired action through giving the power to your employees. Empowering your employees allows them to develop the same skills as training but with the added benefit of giving them ownership in their skills development and accomplishment of organizational tasks. Again, when employees are motivated not out of direction, but are inspired out of desire to accomplish tasks, you’ll know you have finally evolved from manager to leader.

About the Author

Colleen Kettenhofen is a motivational speaker, workplace expert and co-author of “The Masters of Success,” as featured on the Today Show, along with Ken Blanchard and Jack Canfield. She has spoken in 47 states & 6 countries. Popular topics: difficult people, success, presentation skills, leadership, life balance.

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