The Differences Between Managing and Leading - Renascent Consulting

The Differences Between Managing and Leading

We’ve all been there; watching somebody work on a project in a way that we knew could be more productive.  “Here, let me show you …” and before you know it, the project has been completed – by you.

We’re all tempted to do something ourselves, either because we know we can do it better, or we can do it faster, or we can do it differently.  But that doesn’t help the other person learn.  It helps the other person to be more dependent on you to get the job done, which in turn, makes it harder for you to effectively manage your team.

There is a big difference between managing and leading and the outcomes can be detrimental to both you and your team.


Webster defines managing as “the act or manner of managing; handling, direction, or control.”

In short, managing is the act of controlling.  Controlling a person, controlling a project, controlling a decision.  Managing leads people to submission, which doesn’t produce the results that leading produces.


A definition of leadership is “to show the way, to guide, or to direct.”

A leader is not all knowing, but knowledgeable.  They speak with a purpose but also listen to others.  They set an example of trust, compassion and corporate values.

Leading and managing do go hand in hand.  Good leaders are also good managers, but bad managers are those who are bad leaders.  Leading is focused on influencing people, while the other focuses on ‘resources’ in addition to people.  Without one, leading or managing, the other can’t do its job properly.

Choose to Lead 

The unspoken message of the managerial style, whether intended or not, is that staff are submissive. In other words, unless they are clearly told what to do they won’t know exactly what to do, or they may not do it at all. On the other the side of the spectrum, people who follow a leadership business style lead more by communicating and encouraging. They share the reasons for what must be done and motivate their teams to see their roles in reaching the goals.  A leader shares credit with the team when a goal is accomplished.

Making the choice to be a leader needs to be an intentional choice if you are more of a managing type person.  The practice of managing and leading is learned by habit and as we all know, habits are sometimes hard to break.

Start by taking a self assessment of yourself.  Are you more directive then influential?  Do you listen to your team members or do you tell your team members?  Do you value the opinions of your team members or do you feel that your way is the only way?  Your answers will help you determine where you need to make changes.

When you have determined where you need to change, you can implement a plan.  Start with small step goals that you can easily implement.  Perhaps something as small as “choose a team idea rather than my own within the next two weeks”  would be your first goal.  Changes won’t happen overnight, so patience with yourself is key.  But with the right attitude and the desire to be a more effective leader, the changes in yourself and in your team will be worth the effort in the long run.

Posted in Leadership/Management Strategies

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