Are you a leader or a manager?

Does it matter whether you lead or manage your roofing company?

In any organization, getting positive results is imperative. Yet even if you're successful, do you ever have the feeling things aren't quite the way they should be? For example, is safety a nagging issue? Are margins not quite right? Or worse, are employees bad-mouthing, stealing from or leaving your company?

The confusion

How do you know when to lead versus manage, and does it matter? These are good questions and not as easy to answer as you might think. Try Googling the terms; it doesn't take many clicks to see some form of the word "manage" in definitions or explanations of leading and some form of the word "lead" in definitions or explanations of managing. Academic literature supports the desire to clearly define these terms, provides examples of them and shows how extremely close these two concepts are; however, these explanations often can be confusing, and a meaningful distinction that is practical in everyday situations can be elusive.

When I teach about leading and managing, I see this confusion play out in real time. I ask students to complete a number of exercises that illustrate how muddled these words are. For example, as an introductory exercise, I ask each student to interview one classmate using a set of predetermined questions. The interviewers then use the answers to introduce the classmate to the class. One question provided to interviewers is: "As a manager, what is most frustrating about your role?" Another is: "What would you like to learn today?"