The Difference Between Leading and Managing

Does your business have strong leadership? If you’re the chief executive or upper management, you might automatically and understandably be tempted to answer, “Yes,” without thinking too deeply about the question.

However, it’s important to stop and think about this, just as you would any other assessment of the state of the business. Many companies have strong leadership but mediocre management, while others really don’t have true leadership but have outstanding management.

Both are important, but they are not the same. And every successful business needs both.

First, it’s important to draw distinctions between the two.

Leadership is about imagining what could be and inspiring others. Management is about the control and regulation of resources in order to fulfill that vision.

Leadership is about the big picture – it is focused on the “why” of a business. Why do you exist? Leaders set the mission, vision, and values of what the company can be and the difference it can make for its customers and others. Leadership requires abstract thinking and the ability to articulate that thinking in a way that makes sense to people both inside and outside the business. It’s about generating enthusiasm for a promise.

Management is about the tenacity to keep that promise. Rather than focus on the “why” of a business, management’s primary concern is the “how”—how are we going to deliver? It’s about the day-in, day-out work that focuses on the specifics of getting the job done in a way that meets—or exceeds—customer expectations. To be an effective manager, you need to understand how to get things done inside the organization.

Leaders tend to embrace uncertainty. Managers are far more likely to focus on alleviating uncertainty.

Leadership tends to get all the glory. There are hundreds and hundreds of books written about leadership, written by high profile CEOs, basketball coaches, and data-driven consultants. There are far fewer books that are purely about management and what it takes to execute; this could be because every business management situation is slightly different, or it could be because the ins and outs of management aren’t quite as sexy as big picture leadership.

However, when it comes to your business, don’t overlook either one. A company that creates a future vision that inspires the entire staff is one that will attract talented people and eager customers. And a company that executes that vision through smart management is one that will keep them.

Contact us at 215.441.4600 or Email if you have questions or would like to discuss how this topic may impact your business.

Subscribe to Kreischer Miller's email newsletter

You may also like: