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What is the Difference Between Managing and Leading

Are you a Manager or a Leader?

As people who are responsible for the success of others, supervisors have to curate and practice a unique set of skills. Ensuring that members of their team do their job, as well as possible, and deliver on expectations requires multiple strategies. We often use the terms leader and manager interchangeably, but leading and managing are two different skill-sets; both are important for steering individuals and groups in a productive direction.

What is leading and what is managing?

There are many ways to execute leadership, but there are a few characteristics that are true across the board; leaders influence others with the purpose of achieving specific goals. There are a number of ways to influence others, and each method works better or worse depending on the context. Some examples of types of influence others are inspiration, empathy, or coercion. Most people respond to influence that leaves them feeling valued and respected. Employees that feel like they matter are more likely to be invested in the success of the team. Leading in ways that foster positive influence is often more successful.

While influence and leadership is a part of the equation, supervision also requires holding employees accountable to expectations, rules, and guidelines. Managers are responsible for the process, ensuring that things move forward based on a timeline, using the appropriate tools, according to a set of expectations. Management often requires coaching team members through a process to help them achieve optimal effectiveness.

Why are both sets of skills important?

A well-rounded supervisor knows how to inspire employees and help them feel bought into the vision and then helping the team execute the plan. Many of us are stronger at one part of the equation, but it’s important to respect and work on the set of skills that are not our strength. Understanding how management informs leadership and vice versa strengthens our capacity to work with individuals and teams.

When attempting to move a process forward, knowing what framework to use to support your employees can be extremely helpful. If there’s an issue with performance, you might try to identify if the problem is influence related or process related. Knowing the origin of the issue will help you address it in a direct and useful way. If the concern deals with lack of motivation, leading folks through inspiration may be the correct course of action. If the problem is related to how the task is being carried out by the team, using management related strategies such as clarifying roles, planning, and coaching may be most useful.

Managing and leading are the two sides of the same coin when it relates to moving teams forward. Be aware of the roles of each skill set can help you be more successful in supporting people you supervise. While we may be more naturally inclined to one or the other, appreciating the usefulness of both leading and managing will lead to better outcomes for you as a supervisor and your team.