While ‘team leader’ sounds very inspirational, the phrase ‘team manager’ has a more authoritarian ring to it. That is because, in the domain of management, a team leader is known to inspire and motivate, while the team manager dictates and directs.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a manager is a villain or that a team leader is an angel. Also, the organisation needs both.
Differentiating the two further, senior HR professional, Satyendra Malik, explains, “Team leaders are the ones who inspire the teams by walking the talk and showing the way. They are the subject matter experts, while managers are expected to be more meticulous in planning and directing.”
“In general, a team leader functions as a manager as the leadership role overlaps with that of the managerial, on a day to day basis”
Vijay Sinha, executive VP-HR (manufacturing), JSW Steel
Managers also portray more administrative and executive skills, and are good at delivering.
Amarpreet Baidwan, VP-HR, Orient Cables, makes an interesting observation.
“There’s more to this than meets the eye. The managers work on strategising, planning and measuring the key areas where the work has to be done, whereas the team leaders resolve the everyday task issues, ensure smooth coordination between the teams, and keep not just each individual motivated but the entire team as a whole. Most importantly, they support the team to achieve their targets”.
Vijay Sinha, executive VP-HR (manufacturing), JSW Steel, is in favour of a bit of both as the two complement each other.
“Team leaders envision long-term plans, whereas team managers execute plans on a day-to-day basis. However, these long-term plans will have no meaning if they are poorly executed. Therefore, these two roles are complementary,” he explains.
Sinha goes on to add, “Since leadership is contextual, the team managers also acquire the role of team leader for the day. Likewise, the team managers interface with the team members, understanding and translating the vision of the team leaders into a plan and executing the same”.
Baidwan believes that the evaluation processes for a team leader and a team manager have to be different. “When organisations hire team managers, they look for the ability to formulate the budget for the team or the department, besides experience and skills.”
“Team leaders inspire the team by walking the talk and showing the way. They are subject matter experts, while managers are expected to be more meticulous in planning and directing”
Satyendra Malik, senior HR professional
“However, when hiring a team leader, the focus is on the leadership skills, teamwork and the speed at which the person can resolve issues,” Baidwan adds.
What’s important in the current context is that the team manager – team leader duo need to earn respect for their contribution towards the organisation and not because of their rank or level. This is what the new generation at the workplace demands.
Managers have clear concepts which they hold deep in their minds amidst all the chaos. Hence, they try to resolve problems quickly. In contrast, leaders are more capable of acknowledging the process by seeking stability and control. They are likely to get to the root of the problem and find out the cause before coming up with the final solution.
So, who does corporate India prefer to lead a team?
Malik says, “Honestly speaking, corporate India wants both put together. The required range of leadership skills of a person varies as per function and the basic nature of the organisation.”
“The managers strategise, plan and measure the key areas where the work has to be done whereas, the team leaders resolve the everyday task issues, ensure smooth coordination between the teams, keep them motivated on an individual basis and also as a unified team at times. Most importantly,, they support the team to achieve their targets”
Amarpreet Baidwan, VP-HR, Orient Cables
“Newgen organisations look for more managerial skills than the legacy organisation,s especially in direct revenue- generating functions. However, for long-term sustainability, having the right blend of both is a must,” he adds.
Sinha opines, “The requirements of managers and leaders change, depending on the context, the culture of the company and the nature of the business. For instance, when the business is in its initial stage, say a startup, the role of the team leader becomes important as he has to streamline everything from scratch, whereas the team manager ensures the right execution of the work.”
“Hence, the individual skills of both are important for the growth of the company and for building a team.”
“However, in general, team leaders function as managers, as the leadership role overlaps with that of the managerial role on a day-to-day basis,” he concludes.