The Difference Between Managing and Leading People

Last Updated on January 22, 2023 by Milton Campbell

The difference between managing and leading people is greater than most people realize. Managing and leading are different but very important skills to have. The best leaders know how and when to use whichever skill set is appropriate for the occasion.

By definition, management is the process of dealing with or controlling things. This could mean telling people what to do and controlling their actions and directing them in order for them to get something done.

Terms Describing Managers:

  • Control
  • Direct
  • Monitor
  • Enforce

In contrast, lead means to guide somebody in order for them to get things done. This could mean communicating the leader’s direction and allowing the people to follow it on their own.

Terms Describing Leaders:

  • Guide
  • Motivate
  • Influence
  • Enable

The Difference Between Managing and Leading in the Work Environment

Managers tend to see people as more of numbers and constantly monitor work to ensure the production is maintained. At times this can actually lead to slower production. For instance, if a boss is constantly stopping his workers to get updates he is slowing them down just for his own peace of mind. Leaders try to enhance progress by focusing on building people up. For instance, a leader may take a few extra minutes to discuss an employee’s personal issues in order to help them get in the right state of mind and produce better results while they work.

Managers have a circle of power which consists of subordinates that have to listen to them or they may lose their job. Leaders have a circle of influence that consists of people that want to follow them.

How do Leaders Get People to Follow Them?

  • Lead by example. If a boss is not doing the right things or willing to work hard, those underneath them are going to lose respect and not want to put in any extra effort.
  • Take a few extra minutes to find out what is going in people’s lives. Personal issues can really affect how a person performs at work.
  • Find out what motivates people. This can be public recognition, money, prizes, or sometimes just a simple good job is enough.
  • Give constant feedback to your employees. Good or bad. Many times people don’t know if they are doing something wrong. They can’t fix what they don’t know even if it may be obvious to you.

The difference between managing and leading people can be the difference between employees staying or leaving. A workplace is a lot more productive when subordinates want to work for their boss.

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