5 Key Differences Between Leading vs. Managing

    If you’re a manager, then you’re a leader, right? Wrong. People commonly mix these characteristics up, but it’s so important to understand the relationship between leadership and management. Every leader has probably taken on a managerial role, but not every manager has been a successful leader. Both are needed, and as with most things in life, it’s all about balance.

    Leading vs managing:

    Managing is the hard skills: it’s IQ, it’s knowing the job, and understanding and clearly setting expectations to achieve predictable results.

    Leadership is the soft skills: it’s EQ, and it’s knowing the people. Leadership is the choice to positively influence another human.

    Take your favorite boss of all time as an example. What do you remember them for? Is it how intelligent they were, how hard they worked, or how much money they made?

    I didn’t think so. I bet it’s the soft skills, the trust they showed you, the empowerment they offered, and how they always had your back and kept you engaged. As a people manager, you need to have a strong grasp of the relationship between leadership and management to be effective.

    Leadership vs Management

    A simple way to understand leadership vs management is doing (managing) versus thinking about what to do (leadership).

    How do you spot a true leader in the wild? Leaders examine where their organization stands, where they want to go, and how they can get there by involving, aligning, and influencing people. If a company goes through a rough patch or reaches a stumbling block, a leader will be the one who will stand up and ask, “Why did this happen?” and, “What did we learn from this?”

    They are the visionaries who set the pathways to excel organizational growth. The ones who inspire trust and influence, motivate, and enable employees to do their best.

    Leadership blossoms as a result of your actions, whereas a manager is a job title that comes with fixed responsibilities. Managers are the ones asking, “How” and “When,” to help make sure that plans are properly executed. As a manager, your day-to-day may involve delegating tasks, overseeing client projects, and keeping everyone on track to hit deadlines. They're the ones breaking down long-time goals into tiny segments and using coordinated activities and tactical processes, organizing available resources to reach the desired outcome.

    The ones developing their people to bring out the best in them and helping them achieve each objective.

    So, if managers want to do their job effectively, they have to really know and understand their people. Understand this about leadership vs management: employees follow the orders of managers because they are contractually obliged. Leaders, however – and managers that develop leadership qualities and understand the difference between doing (managing) versus thinking about what to do (leadership) – are followed because of their inspiring behavior and values.

    5 Key Differences Between Leading vs. Managing_Blog

    What is the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

    So, what factors distinguish leadership vs management? Both roles have overlap in their responsibilities and skills. However, their priorities differ. Anyone who has direct reports is a manager, from a CEO down to supervisors. But as a people manager, I need to manage and lead my team. The question is, are managers just managing or are they leading effectively too?

    Leadership vs Management

    Inspiring people around a shared vision

    Executing the strategy

    Motivating employees

    Focusing on the process

    Looking to the future

    Focusing on the present

    Creating a positive culture

    Performance management

    Focusing on the people

    Focusing on results


    Both roles require good communication and decision making.


    Leading vs managing: one difference between leadership and management is that leaders create change, while managers react to that change. Leadership is normally setting out a vision to create a sense of purpose, and aligning and influencing people, whereas management is about the decision-making process to get the right result. Its about being pro-active versus reactive.

    A leader will challenge the status quo and be a point of strength and stability across organizational changes. A manager will be the one to devise a plan for communicating that organizational change, and reaching desired outcomes through organizing people, coordinated actions and tactical processes.

    Business Objectives

    Leading vs managing: leadership is normally focused on motivating and inspiring people, acting at times as a coach, while management looks at the processes and activities which will allow business objectives to be complete. This may mean implementing processes such as organizational structuring, staffing projects, allocating resources, and budgeting to hit goals.

    A great leader inspires others to achieve results that might not have seemed possible. A great manager supports and guides their teams through their daily work, empowering them with the clarity, feedback, and knowledge to make an impact in their role.


    Leading vs managing: both roles require different skills, although some are shared.

    Top 5 Skills Needed




    Project Management


    Goal Setting/Measuring

    Feedback & Coaching

    Resource Allocation

    Emotional Intelligence

    Strategic Thinking


    Problem Solving


    Leading vs managing: another difference between leadership and management is that leaders inspire, while managers oversee. Leadership is more focused on setting out targets for the future, thinking ahead, driving change, and capitalizing on opportunities, whereas management is looking at the present and seeing if they're achieving their current objectives.

    4 out of 5 employees want to hear more frequently about how their company is doing and where it’s headed (Edelman), and a leader is someone who helps you understand that Big Picture.

    They ask, “what's the vision for the team? How does that vision connect to organizational objectives? A manager takes that strategic vision, and connects it to employees’ day-to-day work, to make that Big Picture a reality.


    Leading vs managing: leadership is the crucial skill of creating and implementing a positive culture, and upholding the core company values and beliefs through their actions and communication. Managers are responsible for performance-managing the team, driving continuous success and a positive work experience throughout career journeys, and implementing the practices and policies to ensure people are living that culture too.

    Understanding leadership vs management is an essential learning curve, and leadership is a quality that needs to be shaped. Explore our Leadership Simulations to learn more about effective doing (managing) versus thinking about what to do (leadership).

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