Some will say the differences between a manager and a leader are semantic. Others will tell you why you need both, or why you need to be both. Each point of view has merit, but for my purposes, I define management as directing procedures and leadership as influencing people. You’ll often hear me say, “You manage projects and lead people.” But what does manage projects and lead people mean? What are the differences between managing people and leading them?

14 Differences Between Managing People and Leading Them

Manager Leader
Gives Orders Encourages conversation
Makes the plan Begins a conversation, helps design the plan
Commands Encourages
Sticks with what they know Lifelong learner
Jumps to urgent tasks Works toward what’s important
Uses Fear to motivate Develops trust
Expects people to do their job Offers training, gives direction
Orders others what to do and how to do it Explains why
Has direct reports Creates followers
Assigns tasks to people Fits people to the task
Creates silos Builds teams
Focuses on what went wrong Gives recognition for what went right
Finds problems Sees opportunities
Points fingers when things don’t go right Sees failure as a chance to learn

Are You a Manager, Leader, or Both?  

I encourage you to check the dictionary definitions of manager and leader. They overlap, and at least in my mind, there isn’t a clear delineation between the two. So, let’s stay with, managers manage procedures and leaders lead people. Which are you with your teammates? It’s not only okay to manage projects, somebody needs to. What’s not okay is to manage people like they were a project.

Do You Want to Manager People or Lead Them?

When I was a younger manager, I didn’t understand leadership. My goal was to be a better manager. As long as my mindset was on improving my procedures, not in changing my viewpoint, I didn’t progress. However, after many failures, I realized that it was better to persuade people than command them. Rather than telling people to follow my plan and execute my orders, bringing the team together to brainstorm brought buy in. It was their plan. I learned that fear might produce short-term results but was destructive in the long run, and that recognition and encouragement built teams.

Review the list. What stands out in your mind? Where could you improve? Could you, and should you progress from being a manager to a leader?