It seems like there is a tendency to confuse the words “lead, leader, and leadership” with “manage, manager, and management” when they are entirely different things. Management is about supervision, administration, and control while leadership is about guiding, learning, and fostering growth. This is not to say the two are mutually exclusive. A manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager. However, the converse is also true, one does not need to be entitled with the appellation of manager to be a leader nor does the designation manager automatically make one a leader.
To be a leader, people must follow you. Notice the exact wording there—they must follow you. People obey managers, they follow leaders. They are willing to take risks because they believe that you are doing what is best for them and you have skin in the game with them. Leaders are the first on the field and the last off. Leaders would never ask someone to do something that they haven’t or wouldn’t do. People follow leaders because they trust them.
Leadership is a skill, not a title. Like any other skill, it must be constantly honed, practiced, and studied to be maintained. It must not be taken for granted. I have seen great leaders become complacent and devolve into mere managers. I have also witnessed firsthand the ascension of a manager into a fantastic leader through hard work, research, and dedication to improvement. A commonly quoted statistic states that CEOs of the Fortune 500 read an average of four to five books per month.
Leadership is rewarding. Encouraging growth of a person, team, or organization and witnessing that team member, group, or firm reach their full potential is extremely uplifting. The proudest moment for a leader is when someone they have mentored tells them they are moving on to lead their own team. Whereas, a manager sees the loss of an employee, the leader recognizes the need for that person to expand their horizons and is proud. A leader who is a manager will feel both but express the latter.
Management does not equal leadership and leadership does not equal management. These two skills are as disparate as apples and oranges. Managing leaders must strive valiantly to maintain separation between the two and whenever possible, err on the side leadership.