The terms management and leadership are often interchanged with little consideration for the difference.  And yet there is a significant difference between the two.  We must understand the differences if we are to be strong leaders.  Without clarity, we will fall into the trap of managing rather than leading.

Managing is defined as having executive or supervisory control or authority.  Managing tends to be focused on our title and authority to direct activity or resources.  While this is gratifying and can be easier to obtain results, the results are uninspiring and usually short-lived.  You can require a team member to do something, but the result will often fall far short of being impacting and compelling.

Leadership is defined as the action of leading a group of people or an organization.  Leadership is focused on the influence we have as a person and seeks the best for others.  The impact of leadership takes a bit longer to achieve but is far lasting.

Many leaders default to being managers because it is easier to direct than to influence others.

When someone states that they are directing you to do something, the implication is evident that our employer is requiring us to comply.  Thus, the manager can check off projects and goals with minimal difficulty.

Leadership is more difficult because to influence someone you must be “other-focused”.  Understanding the needs and motivation of others, allows us to engage in meaningful ways to help them achieve their goals as they align with the team.

The synergy of a team that is well led and holds a shared purpose is so fun to watch.   All the obstacles and challenges are met with optimism and a can-do attitude.  Drama and politics are eliminated as each person is challenged to be their best for the benefit of the mission.

None of this happens by chance.  Influencing others is the primary function and tool of a leader.  How much time do you invest in learning how to influence others?  Are you managing or leading?  Avoid the temptation to manage when you need to lead!