What do you think of when you hear the word “manager”? If you’re like many employees, the words that pop into your head could include zookeeper, cog-driver, or dictator or characteristics like outdated or out of touch. The typical definition of the word “manager” is simply a person who manages others. In many cases in the media and in real life, managers are portrayed as being aloof, arrogant, or simply incompetent and just there to do less work than their employees but make more money. It’s no surprise that many companies are turning away from the term manager because it can be viewed so negatively and seen as old fashioned.
On the other hand, what do you think of when you hear the word “leader”? For most people, it invokes thoughts of being inspired, led somewhere new, and gathered as a team. A leader is someone you can turn to who can transform your work into something more meaningful and help you reach a far-off goal. For many people, a leader isn’t an assigned or promoted position, but rather a characteristic that someone naturally possesses.
Over time, our language has shifted so that managers and leaders have taken on completely different definitions. One is generally considered negatively and viewed as outdated, while the other is positive and forward-thinking. The simple rift between two similar words may not seem important in the long run, but it has actually created two dichotomies inside organizations that have a large effect on how things are run. Even without realizing it, employees may have hard feelings towards a manager or not like their methods because of their title, while managers may subconsciously fill their roles with a commanding presence instead of leading a team of employees to greater success. If someone has naturally leadership abilities, they may be viewed more positively by employees than a manager, even though their responsibilities might be different.
But what would happen if we focused on redefining the term manager and equated the position with leader so that the words were interchangeable? That simple change could have huge impacts within organizations, both for employees and managers. Instead of feeling simply like cogs in the machine, employees could feel empowered and like there was someone they could go to for help, inspiration, and connectivity. Managers would feel empowered and have the tools to inspire workers instead of simply passing on information from executives and driving simple tasks. Instead of feeling locked into the corporate rules, leader managers can have more creativity to get the job done and help their employees reach new heights.
Organizations that consider managers as leaders tend to be more forward-thinking and have replaced the outdated idea that managers sit on pedestals to boss around employees. This is especially important in the future of work where most employees don’t simply work their way up the corporate ladder anymore. By changing how organizations think about leadership and management, organizations can make sure they are hiring people who inspire and lead others no matter their position in the company. Changing the definition of the word manager also changes how companies reward and promote employees, which could resonate especially well with a new generation of workers. Over time, we would likely see the negative connotation for the word manager decrease and empowerment and interaction between managers and employees increase as those imaginary walls come down.
It may seem like a simple change, but redefining the term manager can have a huge impact on a company and lead to a changed mindset for everyone within its walls.
Learn more about redefining managers here.
My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to the newsletter here or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If… and join the discussion.