Difference between leading and managing

  • Here Are the Main Differences Between Leadership and Management
  • Leadership vs. Management: Two Key Distinctions
  • Leadership vs. Management: Why Each Role Makes a Difference

Let’s set the record straight: leadership isn’t necessarily “good” while management is “bad.”

Despite what you may have heard, both roles are critical in a business. What’s more, most of us aren’t just a leader or a manager; we step back and forth between the roles as needed. In fact, some of the best managers will also have outstanding leadership qualities to share with their team.

The differences between leadership and management may be subtle, but it’s important to be aware of them as you work with your team. Here are the major ways that the two roles differ.


Active Contributions

If you’re a manager, your role is typically to track contributions to the company—not to contribute yourself. Most managers are constantly checking in with employees to track their progress toward the person’s, team’s, or organization’s goals. This can be vital in some situations. Unfortunately, with overly frequent check-ins, some managers may even be distracting employees and limiting their ability to contribute to the organization!

Leaders, on the other hand, contribute to the company on their own. While leaders may delegate and track employee work, it’s never the role’s primary focus. Instead, leaders contribute through strategic decision-making, by streamlining processes, or by tackling significant projects to further company goals. 

In other words, leaders are active participants in the company’s growth, while managers passively track changes or progress from their team.


Overall Vision

Great managers are determined and detail-oriented enough to help their team tackle any goals put forth by the top brass. Committed to the tasks at hand, they work to understand the company’s strategic vision and drive their teams toward that vision, usually harnessing concrete data and addressing granular details. At a basic level, many managers’ work is limited to what happens within the organization itself—its processes, resources, and hierarchy. 

By contrast, good leaders consider the greater environment of the business, including industry and economic trends and forecasts. With this knowledge, leaders envision the future of their team or organization, anticipating opportunities for growth and deciding how to dodge potential pitfalls. This requires creativity and strategic thinking to imagine the way the company might transform itself in the future. In addition, leaders need to be able to articulate this vision well, communicating it to their teams in a way that both explains and inspires.


Leadership vs. Management

As stated above, many people step between one role or the other depending on the day, situation, or organization. Management and leadership skills are both valuable to a company in different ways, of course, so it’s important to cultivate them—and to know when they’re needed. 

Good leadership, however, is often recognized as a strategic need in many companies. It’s surprisingly hard to teach! That’s why Aim to Win offers coaching for those who want to step outside of their comfort zone and take their skills to the next level. Learn more about what we do, and contact us if you’d like your skills to make more of an impact.