Leading and managing – what’s the difference?

Have you ever been asked what the difference is between leading and managing? Many of us who teach about managing and leading have been. And our responses have varied. Maybe you have heard us say: leading is about taking people into (a better) future and managing is making sure that things run smoothly and according to plan in the present. Or maybe you heard us say that leading emphasizes ‘being’ while managing emphasizes ‘doing.’ None of these responses are completely satisfactory because, in either case, one can come up with exceptions to these statements.

Last year MSH published a new eBook: Leaders who Govern.

Among the many tools and explanations related to good governance, I found this piece on managing and leading very interesting and would therefore like to share it with you.

We always talk about ‘Managers who Lead,’ and this is why: both managers and leaders are essential in modern health sectors to achieve high performance results. They can achieve more together than separately, in the following ways:

  1. Leaders optimize the upside; managers minimize the downside. Both together net more.
  2. Leaders envision possibilities; managers calculate probabilities. Both together win more.
  3. Leaders focus on the ends; managers focus on the means. Both together reach more.
  4. Leaders focus on the what; managers focus on the how. Both together do more.
  5. Leaders prepare beyond the limits; managers focus on execution within limits. Both together perform better.
  6. Leaders generate energy; managers preserve energy. Both together energize more.
  7. Leaders seize opportunities; managers avert threats. Both together progress more.
  8. Leaders are the first ones onto the battlefield; managers are the last ones off. Both together triumph more.
  9. Leaders amplify strengths; managers reduce weaknesses. Both together develop more.
  10. Leaders provide vision; managers provide execution. Both together achieve more.
  11. Leaders do the right things; managers do things right. Doing both together is the right thing.
  12. Leaders drive change; managers maintain consistency. Both together continuously improve.
  13. Leader/manager distinction: “Leaders plant; managers weed.” Both together yield the greatest harvest.

Source: Les dirigeants qui gouvernent. Management Sciences for Health, 2015:location 1:9 (eBook) à https://www.msh.org/sites/msh.org/files/2015-10_msh_leaders_who_govern.pdf

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