Managing vs Leading

Richard Wright

by Richard Wright

Wed, 07/04/2018 - 15:14


You will find many quotes on good leadership, here are some of my favourites:

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. – Theodore Roosevelt

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. – General George Patton

The art of leadership is knowing when to leave the baton to not disturb the orchestra. – Herbert Von Karajan

Notice a common theme emerging here? They all seem to agree that the art of good leadership lies in knowing where and when to step back and leave things alone. But leave things alone and they all fall over, right? No, not with a good team of managers around you. This is the dynamic juxtaposition between a leader and their management team. So how do you blend the right team with leadership and management? Well to start with it is necessary to understand the differences between the two.

For me, the main difference is that leaders inspire people to follow them, while managers have people who work for them. A successful business owner should be both strong leader and effective manager, if they are to get their team on-board, both to follow them towards their own unique vision of success, and to efficiently implement it.

At times the same person can perform as both manager and leader, though this is often a result of circumstance not intent. But be aware, these are very different roles requiring a very different skill set and approach.


Managing vs Leading Circle


In his 1989 book On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis composed a list of differences between management and leadership:

    -  The manager administers; the leader innovates.

    -  The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

    -  The manager maintains; the leader develops.

    -  The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

    -  The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

    -  The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

    -  The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

    -  The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.

    -  The manager imitates; the leader originates.

    -  The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

    -  The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.

    -  The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

You may read this list and feel that it suggests that one is better than the other. That the language Bennis used to describe the leader is more aspirational, more value-add than the manager. I would argue that this is far from the case. The role of the manager is fundamental to the success of a business. The key is in making sure that management and leadership are practiced with just the right balance, by the right people!


Richard Wright

Chief Operations Officer