How leading is different to managing

communicationIt’s become quite unfashionable to call yourself a manager. Leader sounds much better, don’t you think?

It’s as though the words are interchangeable. Leading. Managing. Same same..

They’re not the same though.

Leading is quite different to managing.

You can be a leader without any management responsibility and a manager without displaying any leadership qualities. You can be both.

So how is leading different to managing?

Here’s an excerpt from my book – Do What You Say You’ll Do ( a book for new leaders and those reinventing their leadership style) where I quote John P. Kotter:

Management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day,  week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial—but it’s not leadership. 

Leadership is entirely different. it is associated with taking the organisation into the future. Finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster. And successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision,about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it is about behaviour. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in the hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it is a recipe for failure.


Why does it matter if leading is different to managing?

More from Kotter again:

Some people still argue that we must replace management with leadership. This is obviously not so; they serve different, yet essential purposes. 

We need superb management. And we need more superb leadership.

Until we realise that we’re not talking about management when we speak of leadership, all we will try to do when we need more leadership is work harder to manage. At a certain point, we end up with over-managed and under-led organisations which are increasingly vulnerable in a fast-moving world.

So, we need both. And one is not more important than the other.

The important thing is to understand the difference, and understand what is needed and when.

Want More?

If you would like to discuss how I could help you look at your leadership, get in touch.

And if you’re still  hungry for more on being a great leader, you can find my leadership book here and click here for more resources on the difference between leading and managing.

Until next week, happy leading.


Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.

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