The Difference Between Leading And Managing

While on the surface, it may seem that these
two terms are interchangeable, there are in fact important differences, for you
and for your team, between being a leader and being a manager. Understanding
those differences is how you can step from one role to the other with
distinction.

“Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.” (Source)

The key difference between a leader and a
manager is that a leader influences others to follow them and work towards
their vision. A manager, by contrast, directs specific work activities, in
effect telling people what is expected and how success will be measured. Both
are necessary to accomplish goals and turn a vision into reality.

“If we look at the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr., it is easy to see that they did not do anything to other people. What they did do was set very clear goals for themselves, and motivated themselves to struggle endlessly towards achieving them. In doing so, they became powerful role models, and that in turn motivated and inspired others to join their journey.” (Source)

What is leading?

Leading is about influencing others to do what
needs to be done, in pursuit of a common objective. That objective is created
by leaders: by seeking to change how things are done, to clarify the path to
achieving said objective and to motivate people to work towards this
achievement.

Other
ways to describe leadership:

  • Articulate an
    objective or goal, inspiring change in vision or thinking;
  • Work
    diligently on this objective;
  • As a role
    model, to influence others to embrace that objective or goal, and ultimately
    achieve it;
  • Inspiring
    people to reach above and beyond the minimum standard with their efforts, often
    by example.

What is managing?

Managing is less about setting a direction and
influencing others than about following a process set out and ensuring that
others know how to do so as well.

Other
ways to describe management:

  • Planning, organizing and ensuring that the elements, both human and otherwise, needed to achieve a specified goal are in place;
  • Following established processes within the organization and problem-solving issues with workflow, when necessary.

Another
way to see it?
Look at managing as counting by
reviewing data, while leading is more like creating using abstract thinking.
Ultimately, being a leader isn’t always a role defined by an organization: you
can have natural leaders within a group, the person to whom others gravitate
for inspiration or advice. It’s not about the authority that is bestowed on a
person through position or a title. Being a leader doesn’t mean that they have
control, but it does mean that they have influence.

For many, management roles are the first step
to leadership. There are skills that are innate in leadership, but many are
learned: listening, being authentic, creating a safe space for people to work,
and more. But remember this too: leaders
can’t lead if there aren’t people around who can interpret and action their
vision. That’s where solid management skills come into play. If you have both,
you’re ahead of the game!

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