Jan 25, 2022 | Leadership


A practical activity for Coaches, Consultants and Trainers

No one ever gives you a manual when you start to lead people and explain the difference between ‘managing’ and ‘leading’. But in this small difference lies the big difference between mediocrity and high performance.


If you’re in the coaching, consulting or leadership development space, chances are you’ll get asked the question: ‘what’s the difference between leadership and management’? You could explain it or you could create an activity for workshop participants to figure this out for themselves. Clearly there is a difference, but the process of figuring it out is a valuable learning activity.

Managing and Leading are not the same

  • Let’s assume you’re coaching a client and the key question they want to focus on is: ‘how do I become a better leader vs a better manager’? How do you guide them through this question?
  • Or assume, you’re running a workshop for a team and their most recent engagement scores show that employees don’t feel they’re being led-well. How will you guide them through this challenge?
  • Perhaps you’re running a workshop for emerging leaders or future leaders and they want a clear response to ‘how do I know if I’m managing and how do I know if I’m leading’? How would you respond to this question?

A practical activity to clarify the difference between managing and leading

If your coaching client or workshop participants are managing a team, then set this context.

  • In your current role you have to both lead and manage. Both matter. Both are important. The question is, do you achieve the right balance between ‘managing’ and ‘leading’. Getting this balance right lies at the heart of ‘situational leadership’. Quite simply, do your team need more managing or more leading – based on their skills, experience and competence?

Part 1: On a flip-chart write out the following 8 statements and ask individuals to decide individually, which ones best describe the discipline of managing and which describe the discipline of leading:

  1. Setting clear objectives and goals
  2. Offering team members feedback on performance
  3. Sharing a future vision of how the business needs to change
  4. Engaging, involving and exciting others behind the vision
  5. Dealing with team conflict and team harmony, that impacts on performance
  6. Planning and controlling resources to ensure results gets achieved
  7. Coaching individuals to fulfil their potential and to thrive in change
  8. Equipping teams with new insights, knowledge and ‘attitude’ to deal with change

Part 2: Now ask participants to decide why they have selected the statements they have under ‘managing and ‘leading’

Part 3: Now ask participants to either discuss their choices with you (if you’re working with a coaching client); or to work in small table discussions. At this point reveal that they should have 4 statements under ‘managing’ and 4 statements under ‘leading’. Once they can agree on these, can they flip chart at least 6 differences between the two groupings. Allow 15-20 minutes for this discussion and flip-charting their insights.

Part 4: Ask the various sub-groups to walk around the room and take the best ideas from others’ flip-charts and to add them to their own.

Part 5: Ask participants to share their insights, ideas and conclusions.

Part 6: Rveal that in the statements 1, 2, 5, 6 were managing and 3,4,7,8 were leading for the following reasons


To be effective you have to paint with both the colours of managing and leading. The real question is, are you using the right mix between the two? And are you continually adapting based on feedback from your team?

Grow More Leaders

Managing is more to do with:

  • Today
  • Short-term
  • Operational priorities
  • Business as usual
  • Incremental improvements
  • More rational and fact based
  • Getting things done

Leading is more to do with:

  • Tomorrow
  • Future focus
  • Shaping change
  • Working with ambiguity
  • Transformational change
  • More emotive and storytelling
  • Inspiring others to lead

Explain this is not an exhaustive list. Add the great ideas you’ve seen on the various flip-charts.

Part 7: Ask participants to reflect on why do most Managers of teams and people prefer to ‘manage’ vs ‘lead’. Chances are the former is more practical, tangible and measurable.

Part 8: Ask participants do they have the right balance between managing and leading? To ask them to look at their schedule and calendar for the last quarter and estimate what percentage of their time they allocated to each? And what would be a better split for the quarter ahead?

Part 9: Ask participants to identify the barriers that will prevent them from achieving the ideal split AND how will they overcome these barriers?

To discuss any of this further, drop me a note:

Latest Blog Posts
Achieve more