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The Difference Between Managing and Leading

I’ve written about this topic before and since old habits are hard to break I feel a need to continuing writing about it. 

I had the opportunity to spend some time with a long-time friend recently. He is the former CFO of a Fortune 1000 company and the former CEO of a Fortune 500 company. As the conversation often does it turned to various leadership topics. 

He mentioned how the difference between managing and leading was really just a “mirage” and that in fact, there was no difference at all. At first I thought he must be pulling my leg, then I thought he must just be trying to provoke me. Then I finally realized why it was a good idea that he retired when he did.

Believing that managing and leading are one in the same is very, very out-dated thinking. You manage “stuff.” You lead people.

Stuff includes facilities, processes, inventory, capital equipment, and financial matters to name a few. You apply rules and regulations to stuff. If you’re doing something to improve your infrastructure or balance sheet that is most likely managing. 

Only when you’re doing something to improve your people is it truly leading. New computers for your business is NOT leadership. New software is NOT leadership. New vehicles for the sales team is NOT the same as leading your sales team. 

Investing yourself in the future success of the PEOPLE in your organization is leading. People require guidelines, structure, vision, and accountability to succeed. People need someone to care about them as people, not as “human capital.” People need to know they matter to an organization and that what they do makes a difference. They don’t need more rules, policies, and regulations.

Every organization needs both managers and leaders. Sometimes those two very different skill sets can belong to the same person. It should however never be assumed that because someone is a skilled manager that they are or will become a skilled leader. 

It should also never be assumed that because someone is a highly skilled and respected leader that they are automatically a skilled manager.  

Here’s why I believe that it is so important to understand that there is clear difference between these two skills sets: when both skill sets are not present within an organization then the growth of the organization is limited.  

Good organizations understand the difference between managing and leading. Growing organizations will not sacrifice one for the other. Great organizations work strategically to build both. 

Which kind of organization is yours? 

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