The Difference Between Managing and Leading

Raffa Financial ServicesRaffa Financial Services on 01/31/2019

There are lots of different kinds of managers. From hands-off to micromanaging. From leaders who are never around to those who are constantly breathing down your neck. But the best kinds of managers are those who can also lead.

The magic combination isn’t easy

Being in a high-level position doesn’t mean you’re a leader. And being in a management role doesn’t mean you can’t effectively lead.

Here’s how to tell which one you’re dealing with:

A manager focuses on making sure tasks get checked off, rules get followed, and minimum standards get met.

A leader focuses on developing people, positions, and the organization to ensure everyone can achieve their full potential.

Unfortunately, managers are often put in place with no real knowledge of how to lead, and sometimes with no expectation of actually acting as a leader. When this happens, these managers will naturally default to their previous experiences of being managed themselves and treat their staff accordingly.

But that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. If you want to shift away from a management-focused model and cultivate a culture of leadership, it can be done.

Turning managers into leaders

If this is your ultimate goal, the first step is to recognize the behaviors that identify each group.

Things managers do:

  • Focus on the short term: what needs to get done this week, today, or this very second
  • Point fingers. Not only to direct people, but also to assign blame when things go wrong
  • View employees as units of production rather than people with feelings and ideas
  • Value time spent in the office and obedience over flexibility and results
  • Lead with fear and attempt to use it as motivation for the team
  • Stick to a plan at all costs, even when it’s clearly not working
  • Say things like “But we’ve always done it that way!” and “Why re-invent the wheel?”
  • Refuse to delegate or let go of certain things due to lack of trust
  • Hover nearby because they are afraid things won’t get done otherwise
  • Spend a whole lot of time talking and very little time listening

Things leaders do:

  • Create a vision for the organization and communicate how each team member fits in
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm for company goals and values and generate it in others
  • Take responsibility and communicate openly, during good times and bad
  • Listen to concerns, ideas and feedback and provide these things as needed
  • Inspire confidence in leadership and build trust in employees and staff at all levels
  • Inspire action rather than creating bureaucratic inaction
  • Give team members the freedom they need to take ownership and thrive
  • Coach people through challenges and help them find new levels of success
  • Let teams create solutions instead of handing them a “corporate approved” fix
  • Allow themselves, and those around them, the luxury of failing from time to time as they challenge themselves to reach new heights

Once you’ve determined the qualities that make a good leader, you can start reshaping and retraining your team based on those values and behaviors.

It takes a village

Make sure you get buy-in from current leaders on your definition of leadership and the vision and values that will drive your new model. Then, clearly communicate these shared values to the entire staff and team.

Other ways you can build internal leaders include:

  • Investing in leadership coaching or training
  • Identifying your strong leaders and asking them to mentor others
  • Hiring for cultural fit, seeking out people who are in alignment with your leadership beliefs and style
  • Being a role model and leading by example

In order to move your organization forward, you need a defined vision, clear direction and supportive guidance. Cultivating a team of strong leaders will help you do all of these things and so much more.  


Need a better ROI on your corporate employee benefits? At Raffa Financial, we’re not interested in finding you a policy solution for this year. We’ll create a long-term, employee benefit strategy designed to help you become an employer of choice. Want to build a better future for both your business and your employees? Get in touch.

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Photo by Danielle Balderas

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