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What Is The Difference Between Leading and Managing?

This is a very common question, so first the basic stock answer.

Management is usually considered to be more related to:

  • organizing, arranging, and keeping things running

while leading is usually considered as:

  • the people oriented side that involves motivating, creating common vision, exciting people, building committment and so on.

Different experts may use different words, but generally, that's how the distinction is made.

Unfortunately, we have a tendency, at least in the West, to look at leadership as some how superior to management, in part because it has a more emotional appeal to us, and has a "romantic feel." So, we get comments like:

  • "He's a good manager, but he's too dull and quiet to be a leader"
  • "If she could only inspire people, she could elevate herself and be more effective, and not just a manager".

Leading and managing are equal in importance in any organization, and while any one person may not have both skill sets, all organizations require decent leadership, and decent management to survive and excel over time. Oddly enough, companies that are really good at implementing management functions can be much more successful than companies that are poorly managed but have an inspirational leader.

The early APPLE experience prior to the first ouster of Steve Jobs is a good example of a company lead by an inspirational leader that faced extinction because of lack of management. Which is why Jobs was terminated, and replaced by John Scully, who was the former CEO of Pepsi.

It's an interesting part of management and leadership history, and John Scully's account of his move to APPLE, the events preceeding, and his tenure there, make excellent instructional reading, and also serves to put Steve Job's contributions into a more realistic and accurate context.



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Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992. Since then Robert has trained thousands of employees to deal with angry, hostile, abusive and potentially violent customers. He has authored over 20 books on various subjects, many published by McGraw-Hill.


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