Is leading the same as managing?


Is leading the same as managing?

A manager can be a leader and a leader can excel at managing but are they the same? Let’s start with some similarities and differences between leading and managing.

Some similarities may include:

  1. Both have authority. They oversee people and tell them what to do
  2. Both have direct reports – subordinates
  3. Both engage in forms of decision making

Now the differences:

1.Strategic: thinks in terms of long-term goals
Has a vision for the future
Synthesizes information
Tactical: thinks in terms of the short-term
Concerned with daily operational tasks
Analyzes information
2.Transformational in approach
Looks for opportunities to learn, innovate and grow the organization
Transactional in approach
Concerned with daily tasks
Makes bold moves
Challenges the status quo
Afraid to make big decisions
Comfortable with routine
Maintains the status quo

It is possible to be an effective leader and not an effective manager. It is a balancing act to be both effective at leadership and managing. As the article, Leadership vs Management states, “the often made misconception is that leadership is a skill that people are born with it. More often it is a competency that is achieved through experience, self-development and practice.”

Leaders who are only concerned with vision and big picture thinking can neglect the operational aspect of the organization. Although he/she can master high-level goals, they cannot deliver on transactions such as human resources, planning, budgeting etc. Being effective as both a leader and manager is key because the skills complement each other to manage day-to-day functions, facilitate change, achieve goals and deliver on the big picture.

The reverse is also true. It is possible to be an effective manager and not a good leader. Lussier and Achua (2015) listed three managerial leadership skills: Decision making (conceptual ideas), interpersonal (interacting with people) and technical (tasks). A manager can be adept at these skills but does not have the ability to develop a clear vision for the organization or connect the vision to operations. The manager may be able to direct subordinates but cannot challenge, motivate, influence or engage.

Leadership is a shared, participatory, consultative process. Five elements of leadership as identified by Lussier and Achua (2015) include: Leader-follower, influencing, organizational objectives, change and people. Organizational success is dependent on all elements being fulfilled. One person does not have all the solutions to the many issues that may arise. Sharing the responsibilities will offset competencies and fill gaps. The organization’s objectives are shared goals that requires collaboration to achieve them.