Managing vs. Leading vs. Directing vs. Guiding vs. Coaching vs. Supervising vs. Perceptions

May 23, 2010 by
Filed under: Leadership 

Man­ag­ing vs. Lead­ing. I’ve heard many things and read many arti­cles about being a man­ager ver­sus being a leader. At the same time there have been many arti­cles and sem­i­nars on what I’ll call the com­po­nents of a man­ager and the com­po­nents of a leader.

Being a leader. Is it the same as being a man­ager? Is being a good man­ager the same as being a good leader?  What does coach­ing and the abil­ity to coach mean when it comes to being a good man­ager? When it comes to being a good leader? What does guid­ing have to do with lead­er­ship? With man­ag­ing With direct­ing? A man­ager has to know how to plan, orga­nize, direct and con­trol but a leader may not know how to plan, orga­nize,  direct and con­trol. Yet they are still a leader!

Man­ag­ing vs. Lead­ing vs. Direct­ing vs. Guid­ing vs. Coach­ing vs. Supervising

What are some of the dif­fer­ences in the above? The mean­ings for many of them have some over­lap, but they are still words with dis­tinct mean­ing. Here are some def­i­n­i­tions for each (accord­ing to Word­Net):

Direct­ing — show­ing the way by con­duct­ing or lead­ing; impos­ing direc­tion on. “felt his mother’s direct­ing arm around him”; “the direc­tional role of sci­ence on indus­trial progress”

Guid­ing —  direct the course; deter­mine the direc­tion of trav­el­ling; exert­ing con­trol or influ­ence; “a guid­ing principle”

Coach­ing — to teach and super­vise (some­one). The first use of the term coach­ing to mean an instruc­tor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford Uni­ver­sity slang for a tutor who “car­ries” a stu­dent through an exam.

Super­vis­ing — man­ag­ing by over­see­ing the per­for­mance or oper­a­tion of a per­son or group; under obser­va­tion or under the direc­tion of a super­in­ten­dent or over­seer; “super­vised play”.

Man­ag­ing — (in man­age­ment) the act of get­ting peo­ple together in order to accom­plish desired goals and objectives.

Lead­ing — (in man­age­ment) the  process of social influ­ence in which one per­son can enlist the aid and sup­port of oth­ers in the accom­plish­ment of a com­mon task.

It’s easy to see from above that all the words really have a part in work­ing suc­cess­fully with a group. Sooner or later, every mem­ber of the group will per­son­ally be involved in per­form­ing one of the above. (In the scope of this post, I’m keep­ing a dis­tinct sep­a­ra­tion between “Man­age­ment” and “Man­ag­ing”. Why? Because, lead­er­ship / lead­ing is an intri­cate part of man­age­ment. But it is not the same as man­ag­ing.)

One say­ing  I often hear is:

Man­agers do things right, while lead­ers do the right thing.”

This say­ing may be a lit­tle too bla­tant for my tastes, but it does shed a lit­tle light on the views of each type of posi­tion. It means that man­agers do things by the book and fol­low com­pany pol­icy, while lead­ers fol­low their own intu­ition, which may be more advan­ta­geous to the com­pany. Man­agers use author­i­tar­ian and trans­ac­tional style, which means sub­or­di­nates have to fol­low a manager’s  orders while lead­ers use charis­matic and trans­for­ma­tional style, which means fol­low­ers are inspired to fol­low their leader’s wishes.

Unlike with man­agers, peo­ple fol­low a leader on their own choice but peo­ple have to obey a man­ager.  In a way, a leader’s author­ity is derived from effec­tively bal­anc­ing the task of being a gen­uinely accepted mem­ber of a group, while hav­ing ade­quate detach­ment to con­stantly adjust the course the group is head­ing. Groups are also usu­ally more loyal to a leader than a man­ager because the leader is respon­si­ble in tak­ing the blame when things go wrong. When things go right, the leader is often last per­son to accept any recog­ni­tion for it. He/she often will rec­og­nize and thank the group for the success.

In the moti­va­tion depart­ment, a leader will often use pas­sions and incite emo­tions to moti­vate peo­ple.  A man­ager on the other hand will not often use the lan­guage of emo­tions or pas­sions but more often use log­i­cal and offi­cial meth­ods to moti­vate peo­ple to com­plete a task. This is why lead­ers can be seen to be more emo­tional than a manager.


“Lead­ers stand out by being dif­fer­ent. They ques­tion assump­tion and are sus­pi­cious of tra­di­tion. They seek out the truth and make deci­sions based on fact, not prej­u­dice. They have a pref­er­ence for inno­va­tion.” — John Fen­ton

Lead­ers will often appear to be risk-seeking while man­agers may often appear to be more risk-averse. There­fore, man­agers look for com­fort and seek to avoid con­flict where pos­si­ble while lead­ers are com­fort­able with risk by find­ing ways oth­ers avoid and will­ing to break rules (within rea­son) in order to get things done.

Lead­er­ship. It’s really about coach­ing, guid­ing, and inspir­ing oth­ers to reach a goal. Some­times a leader will stand in front, some­times to the side, some­times even behind the peo­ple he or she is try­ing to help reach a goal.

Even if we don’t for­mally have any­one report­ing to us within an orga­ni­za­tion, we are still lead­ers because every­one in one form or another has the abil­ity to influ­ence oth­ers. So Where Do You Fit In? Man­ager or Leader? How do you see your­self? The deci­sion one makes about that will deter­mine where they go in an orga­ni­za­tion (and most likely the way they are seen as well).

Here are Some Great Books that I Highly Rec­om­mend on the Above!

If you have any com­ments on any of the above, or if you have addi­tional thoughts to add, please feel free to share them with us in the com­ment sec­tion below.

Thanks and Take Care!


 Managing vs. Leading vs. Directing vs. Guiding vs. Coaching vs. Supervising vs. Perceptions


8 Intelligent Opinions, Leave Yours on Managing vs. Leading vs. Directing vs. Guiding vs. Coaching vs. Supervising vs. Perceptions

  1. Mike Anderson on Tue, 25th May 2010 3:31 pm
  2. I love this post Gil. I haven’t yet seen the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the dif­fer­ent man­age­ment con­cepts. Each has an impor­tant part to play, but each is uniquely dif­fer­ent in and itself.



    Like or Dis­like: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Cynthia Toscano-Lopez on Thu, 27th May 2010 2:16 pm
  4. Hi Gil, great topic!
    Here is my 2-cents: (who says you have to be one or the other?)

    From the per­pec­tive of the con­fines of the organization’s tan­gi­ble struc­tures (i.e. processes, meth­ods, cor­po­rate poli­cies, met­rics, etc.) the man­ager is the one whose role is to fol­low that struc­ture and ensure that the employ­ees they man­age do so as well, in order to meet the short-term goals set forth for the orga­ni­za­tion. Their suc­cess is mea­sured by how well they keep to that given structure.

    Given that same per­spec­tive, the leader is the one who tran­scends the bound­aries of the orga­ni­za­tional struc­ture and sees the big­ger pic­ture of how the orga­ni­za­tion “could be”, there­fore look at the longer term goals. In your quote above “man­agers do things right, lead­ers do the right thing”, it enforces the con­cept that the “right thing” may not be what the cur­rent struc­ture of the orga­ni­za­tion is at the moment, but by “lead­ing” the leader is able to shift and help change the orga­ni­za­tion to its new “nor­mal struc­ture”. This then becomes the “new orga­ni­za­tional struc­ture” by which the man­agers can man­age to and pro­duce the nec­es­sary results to suc­ceed at that point in time.

    The point here is, we shouldn’t look at try­ing to be a leader if we are good man­agers, or try­ing to man­age when we were given the gift of lead­ing. Both aspects of an indi­vid­ual equally con­tribute to the suc­cess the orga­ni­za­tion. This cycle of con­stant chang­ing orga­ni­za­tional struc­ture is attrib­uted to the vision­ary lead­ers, and the imple­men­ta­tion of that vision is car­ried out by the ever metic­u­lous managers.

    Well-loved. Like or Dis­like: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. Gil Pizano on Sat, 29th May 2010 12:25 am
  6. Thanks Cyn­thia! You are so right in that a per­son can be both and in that depend­ing upon where they are and what specif­i­cally they are work­ing on at a par­tic­u­lar moment, a per­son may need to be a leader or need to be a man­ager. The suc­cess of any orga­ni­za­tion is only pos­si­ble with many indi­vid­u­als being both a man­ager and a leader. The impor­tant thing is know­ing when to be one or the other. :)

    Like or Dis­like: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Kevin Davis on Fri, 6th Jun 2014 3:53 pm
  8. We’ve spent a lot of time talk­ing about this topic in busi­ness school. Lead­er­ship often gets con­fused with man­age­ment. There are so many def­i­n­i­tions and exam­ples of what a leader is but each are unique to the indi­vid­ual and sit­u­a­tion. What­ever busi­ness you are in, learn to stand out and influ­ence a community.

    Like or Dis­like: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. John on Tue, 2nd Sep 2014 6:28 am
  10. Awe­some clear dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of Direct­ing, Coach­ing, Man­ag­ing and Lead­ing. I really enjoyr read­ing your post. Look­ing for­ward for more great post from you.

    Like or Dis­like: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Jerry Miller on Mon, 29th Sep 2014 12:33 pm
  12. Hey Gil, thanks for point­ing the dif­fer­ence and def­i­n­i­tion of these six words. They may some­how be syn­ony­mous but they are dif­fer­ent and unique.


    Like or Dis­like: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Drug Possession on Wed, 13th May 2015 3:39 am
  14. very nice dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of Direct­ing, Coach­ing, Man­ag­ing and Lead­ing.its very help­ful. thanx for this use­ful information.

    Like or Dis­like: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. New healthy man on Fri, 11th Nov 2016 6:15 pm
  16. Nice web­page you have there.
    New healthy man recently posted..New healthy manMy Profile

    Like or Dis­like: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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