A model to show the difference between managing and leading

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The Manager by Design blog seeks to provide great people management tips and awesome team management tips.  The focus of the blog is on management, but the question is – what is the difference between leadership and management?  There are hundreds of great books on leadership, and there are many resources that work to delineate the difference between managing and leading.  For there purposes of this blog, here is the model I have that demonstrates the difference between managing a leading.

Let’s take a look at the model:

In this model, I’ve put out a grid that puts managing on the x-axis and leading on the y-axis to demonstrate their inter-relationships and where they separate.

In the lower left quadrant (“Individual Producer”), you have a role that requires neither managing nor leading.  I call it the individual producer.  If that individual producer produces something (analyses, a product, a sale), then that person has done her job, and is doing well at the job.  This person is neither managing nor leading, but still producing, and contributing.  Every organization needs lots of this!

Now let’s go to the upper-left quadrant.  Here I have “strategist.”  Imagine an individual who does not have a team, but comes up with amazing strategies for driving an organization forward.  The strategist has heavy influence in that it sets the organization’s direction.  This is, in essence, the definition of a leader.  A leader sets a strategy and then others execute this strategy.  Under this model, a leader does not have to have direct reports or a team to be a leader.  The strategy produced is what leads.

Now let’s go to the lower right corner.  Here we have “strategy executor.”  This is the section where I consider it closest to people and team management.  This is what I think of when I think of “managing.”  In order to execute a strategy, you need some set of resources and that usually involves a team of some sort.  Whether it is direct reports, temporary staff, an outsourced partner, or a virtual team, this “strategy executor” needs people management and team management skills – the kind that are discussed extensively in this blog – to get the work done to execute the strategy.   And this involves managing a larger group if the strategy requires more than one person.


Then in the upper right quadrant we have the “strategist + executor”.  This is a combination of the two roles that consciously separate out “leading” and “managing.”  Someone in this role must do both – set strategy and make sure the strategy is executed.  They are a leader and a manager.  When looking at it this way, you can see that leadership and managing, while often conflated, are two different things.  We tend to think of a leader as being exclusively in this category – someone who not only must produce a strategy, but also execute that strategy with a team.  Often, we think that the larger the team, the more the leadership.

What do you think of this model?  In future articles, I’ll discuss how this model helps us in the emerging field of management design.

Related articles:

Management Design: The Designs we have now: The paths to management and leadership

Management Design: The designs we have now – Manager knows and supports only one possible strategy

How to use strategy sessions as a way to manage indirect sources of info about your employees (part 1)

How to use strategy sessions as a way to manage indirect sources of info about your employees (part 2)

How to use strategy sessions as a way to manage indirect sources of info about your employees (part 3)

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


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