Understanding the Differences Between Managing and Leading

Understanding the Differences Between Managing and Leading

Understanding the Differences Between Managing and Leading

I often hear leaders talking about managing their people. It makes me wonder if they really understand the differences between managing and leading.

Those differences are substantial.

There are various takes on the differences between managing and leading, including by yours truly. I believe it’s helpful to start by defining them both.

What Managing Is

Differences Between Managing and Leading

For me, managing is about things.  We manage processes, projects, and production schedules.  We make sure the proverbial train gets out of the proverbial station.

Hear anything about people in there?

Managers also manage budgets and tactical workflow.  They bring the leader’s vision to life. They make things happen.

It’s an admirable profession, management.

But it’s not leadership.

What Leadership Is

Understanding Differences Between Managing and Leading

To continue on our journey of understanding the differences between management and leadership, let’s define what leadership is, by defining what leaders do:

Leaders lead people, whether they’re leading managers or even other leaders. It is an all-together human endeavor.

They often create the processes that managers supervise.

Perhaps more important, they articulate (and reiterate) the organization’s values.  They create the vision that the managers help bring to life.

More important, they inspire others to follow, to see that they have many values in common with the leader and the organization.

And perhaps most important, they inspire members of the organization to follow them.  Because if your people aren’t inspired, they’re not following you. And if they’re not following you, you’re not a leader.

Differences Between Managing and Leading

So looking at the descriptions above, are you leading or simply managing your people? If you’re just managing,  and want to truly lead them, what will you do today to get started? And what can I do to empower you to get there?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a comment so we can continue the dialogue.










  1. Scott Kaminski 4 years ago

    Love this take. Another philosophy I love to adhere to is this: the people I lead don’t work for me. I work for them. It’s my job to support, train and develop them while removing obstacles for them.

    • Author
      Ken Jacobs 4 years ago

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Scott. That’s the true definition of servant leadership. It can take effort, but I imagine you’ve been rewarded with a motivated, inspired and loyal team!

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