Managing and Leading – Can You Have One Without the Other?

One of the lessons learned from me about leadership is that you are constantly evolving as a leader. Taking some time to reflect back on your leadership style and if you are having the intended results is critical to leadership. Another lesson learned that is that often people focus on making a distinction between “managing” and “leading.”

Traditionally, managing is viewed is all the logistics, coordination and planning of a project, while leading is viewed as the way a direct inspires, motivates and connects with a team. There are endless resources that look to identify the differences between management and leadership. Often, the lines are blurred and the analysis is subjective. I think there are some key distinctions between leading and managing, and in my opinion, they are not really mutually exclusive of each other. A good leader is simultaneously a good manager and a good leader.

So quickly, here are my top 5 traits for a good manager and a good leader.


  1. Leads By Example
  2. Solid Moral Compass
  3. Inspirational
  4. Holds Herself/Himself Accountable – Humility
  5. Will take a calculated risk


  1. Meets Deadlines
  2. Holds People Accountable
  3. Knowledge of Content
  4. Knows What is Driving Cost
  5. Sets targets, goals, objectives and creates process to track and monitor goals

What do you believe is the difference between a manager and a leader? What are the key traits for each?

This post is brought to you by the GovLoop Leadership Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Leadership Council to learn more.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Henry Brown

Would offer that a truly good leader needs to be a good manager, and the reverse is true as well…

the Manager needs to have a better knowledge of Content and a Leader probably needs to be more inspirational, although a good manager will in fact be inspirational, unless there are no other people involved in managing the project.

David Dejewski

Pat – Nice lists & a good post. It seems to me that a leader that fits the list you provide above could come from anywhere in an organization. A leader like this doesn’t need a title or a rank.

I’ve been inspired by some pretty special people who have worked for me over the years. They’ve had (and still have) a solid morale compass, hold themselves accountable and have taken risks. The more I think about it, the more I like the way you’ve laid these out.

Allison Primack

This is what Terry Geigle shared on GovLoop’s Facebook when asked what are your top traits for a good manager and a good leader:

Number one- listen to your employees. Two-respect your employees. Three- if you do not know what the answer is be honest. Those are my top three.

Bruce Lynn

I concur with the complementarity of the two, but I have different and more concise distinction between the two. Leaders optimise upside opportunity. Managers minimise downside risk. Both are needed in appropriate balance to maximize outcomes.