People confuse management with leadership. Time to set the record straight.

The very term project manager has many connotations attached to it. In those two words, the word manager is very often misunderstood. Why? Well, a manager is someone who manages the workflow. It’s their job to give instructions and crack the whip when work isn’t moving according to schedule.

If a project manager sees their role in these terms, it’s terribly limiting and demotivating to those working under them.

In today’s world, work can be divided using any software like Gantter. All it requires is for a few people to decide the tasks they are responsible for and keep up their end of the bargain. When there is a software like Gantter to do that, why exactly do you need a person?

Previously, we had no apps or software to keep track of work progress. That’s why we needed someone to go around to check if the work was getting done.

So, what exactly is a project manager’s role in today’s world? In a world of digital nomads, solopreneurs and small businesses, where exactly does a project manager fit in?

Here’s what we actually require – project leaders.

Most people confuse management and leadership, and this also applies to project managers.

So how does a leader differ from a manager?

A leader has a vision to share. A manager has tasks to hand out.

A leader recognizes trends and alters course if required. A manager sees their role as just ticking boxes.

A leader inspires by giving direction and painting the big picture, not by issuing diktats and veiled threats.

Let’s use an example to explain how a leader and a manager perform their role differently:

An app is reaching its release date. A few days before the release, a bug is found that can cause the app to crash, making months of hard work go down the drain There are few options in front of the team:

  1. Find a solution before releasing the app
  2. Delay the release of the app
  3. Release the app without fixing the bug

A good leader will first try to find a solution to the problem. If that isn’t possible, they will defer the release as a defective app can cause mayhem.

A person who sees their role as just a manager will, in all likelihood, release the app as all they need to do is tick a box. As far as they’re concerned, the deadline was met, doesn’t matter if the result was faulty.

To be sure, leadership involves some modicum of management. A leader can’t just give a vision and direction and then disappear. But it’s possible to be a manager without having any leadership qualities. That essentially means a good leader is someone who gives direction and also has the patience to manage.

In a world where automation and AI are redefining roles and making many existing ones redundant, the need for leaders – people who look beyond the obvious, who can alter course based on changes, who don’t mind risking failure, will be in demand. If you can manage your workflow with a project management tool, you don’t really need someone who is constantly hovering around you, telling you what to do.

Go from seeing yourself as a manager to seeing yourself as a leader. Nothing will be the same after that.

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