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.

Is your organization behaving?


“Oh behave”! as Austin Powers would say in the Spy movie. Behaviour, or lack thereof, is very important in an organization, so much so that it affects not only the culture and employees’ performance but the company’s bottom line. The news is flooded lately with examples of poor behaviour in the workplace. Uber and Amazon comes to mind. Uber with the toxic woes of diversity issues, discrimination and sexual harassment. It was reported, via an editorial in the New York Times, that Amazon has a culture of punishment, overachievement and fear. These factors influence how employees behave at work – their attitudes and attributes in the workplace.

The field of organizational behaviour is a very important one as shown in the two examples. It is concerned with predicting, explaining and managing people’s behaviour at work. For better or worse, we all participate in some form in our organization’s culture. I work for a major insurance company which is on a tear of a culture shift brought on by many variables –  both internal and external. The internal factors are heavily weighted by the external factors such as the current social and technological climate. Yes, the robots are here. Welcome to the age of automation.  The name of the game is: adapt to survive or perish.

Organizational behaviour goes hand in hand with the field of organizational psychology. Organizational Psychologists study the behaviour of employees at work and how they shape the culture of an organization. Why do people stay with a company? Why do they leave? What motivates people? How can teams work together effectively? These are all questions an organizational psychologist would analyze as part of their work in organizational behaviour.

We all want to work for organizations that cultivate synergies with their people, processes and systems. Organizations that are strong, collaborative, engaging and innovative. Cultivating and maintaining those attributes start with the social aspects of an organization – the effort of its people. Let’s not forget the role of leaders in organizational behaviour. It starts at the top. Employees typically model what they see and experience.

When employees are engaged, demonstrate a willingness towards learning, are motivated etc. they in turn create positive, rewarding organizational cultures. It starts with cultivating critical behaviours.

L&D as a competitive edge

Learning and development (L&D) typically rank among the top five “wants” on employee satisfaction surveys. Employees are keen to develop both personally and professionally. Yet, when times get tough, the learning and development department is the first on the chopping block. This comes at the expense of employee engagement, being the employer of choice and commanding a competitive edge in the marketplace.

With the changing employee demographic – from Generation X and Y to Millennials – the current workforce looks for career development, career opportunities and continuous learning. According to a report from Aon Hewitt, 2014 Trends in Global Employee Engagement, the top drivers of engagement are: brand which includes company reputation and corporate social responsibility; leadership which includes senior leadership, and performance which speaks to career opportunities and learning & competing

A company’s greatest asset is its people resources. Having an engaged, knowledgeable and skilled workforce is not only good for the bottom line but also good for competing for top talent.  Company loyalty is not what it used to be so employees today are looking for organizations that will invest in their success. This is a driver for retention. What is the ROI on this investment? Employees who remain – less turnover, employees who advance and become brand ambassadors and employees who are invested in the company’s earning potential. After all, a company is only as good as its people.