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There are many differences between leading and managing 

A leadership role is significantly different from a manager role.

These differences may have been best summarized by leading management thinker Peter Drucker, “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things.”  Add to this the wisdom of Klaus Balkenhol, a gold-medal winning Olympian, “There is a difference between being a leader and being a boss. Both are based on authority. A boss demands blind obedience; a leader earns his authority through understanding and trust.

Another distinction is that managers will say “go do this” to their subordinates, whereas leaders will be heard saying “let’s go do this.”

For those in first-line or first-time supervisory and leadership positions, one of the hardest tasks is juggling and switching between these managerial and leadership activities and responsibilities. Most such leaders are required to alternate hats between moments when they need to use managerial behaviors and when they need to perform as a leader. leading vs. managing | leaders vs. managers

This balancing act is further complicated if they also have their own individual contributor responsibilities to deliver.

New leaders also tend to cling and hold onto projects and responsibilities longer than necessary, often thinking that doing so shows they are a hard worker and worthy of future promotion. A good leader cannot afford to hold onto projects and programs after they have achieved initial objectives. Their time is better spent on move important issues, including people development, strategy planning, and driving innovation.

Great leaders are constantly focused on future opportunities and challenges, instead of relishing past accomplishments and reminding others of what they have achieved in the past.

While managers are rightfully focused on tasks, processes, procedures, and policies, leaders need to additionally concentrate on the people aspect of the business. As U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper stated, You manage things. You lead people.”

We would add that leaders, especially great leaders, also lead people development, a topic we will cover in more detail in a future blog post.


This article is excerpted from my book Great Leadership Words of Wisdom, which is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. It is currently ranked in the Top Ten books in the Kindle Store for Leadership and Leadership Motivation. Great Leadership Words of Wisdom makes an excellent Mother’s Day gift for the women leaders in your life. Order your copies hereGreat Leadership Words of Wisdom

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