The crucial difference between leading and managing


Don't promote individuals without making sure they can make the distinction between leading and managing.

Functional skills don’t necessarily translate into interpersonal managerial skills. It is therefore often unwise to promote one of your functional stars to a managerial role even if they might not have the skill set to direct a team. Few organisations spend enough time on the concept of a technical career ladder that allows individuals to progress, which affords them career fulfilment.


They fail to distinguish between the different hats that people have to wear at every level of growth, each of which has a very distinct set of rules and protocols that must be followed. If they are wearing the leader hat, they have to be inspirational, providing direction to the collective team and helping them understand where the group is headed. If they are wearing the manager hat, they have to get things done through others. This involves taking the direction one sets as a leader and translating that to action through their people by helping remove roadblocks so that the team can be as productive as possible.


Their job as a manager is to make sure that people can succeed, by providing insight, advice and sharing ideas. As a new manager, one also needs to wear the operator hat, which means that there will be times when the manager has to do the work that is required of the team. In that case, it is important to remember when you are a doer, the team is looking at you as a peer.


The biggest mistake new managers make is that they try to change too many things at once. Full of ideas, young managers are excited about the new opportunity and want to prove they are worthy of the new role. But sometimes they fail to make the distinction between leading and managing.

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