The Difference Between Leading and Managing

If you’re only managing your plumbing business, you are not getting the most out of your team

The Difference Between Leading and Managing
Anja Smith

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Most managers likely consider themselves good leaders. Successful ones typically are. But good leadership and good management are often two different things.

People follow leaders because they want to. People work for managers because they’re paid to. Managers may get employees to carry out tasks, but there is no buy-in to a bigger vision. A manager who is also a successful leader will be able to get their team to follow their defined vision of success.

It seems that running a successful plumbing company could be much easier if you are a good leader and not solely a manager.

Types of Leaders

Leaders come in different forms and styles. The same goes for followers. Every person, regardless of his or her role, brings a unique personality to your team. That’s why some people are naturally easier to work with than others.

It’s not only communication that is affected by leadership styles. Your personality as a leader forms the behavior of your team and the way in which your goals are carried out. Your leadership style actually affects the actions of others. That’s a serious burden as well as an incredible gift.

There are dozens of different leadership and personality assessment programs online, each slightly different in how they describe leaders. Some break leadership modes into anywhere from four to 12 or more styles. I’m going to focus on four styles, popularized in People Styles at Work … and Beyond by Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton.

In this book, styles follow two lines of behavior — the level of responsiveness and the level of assertiveness an individual possesses.

Analytical: Perfectionism is key to these individuals. They want it done right the first time, so they crave data to back-up their decisions. They tend to be introverted and are quiet and low-key.

Driver: These fast-paced individuals make decisions quickly and expect immediate follow-through. They may be impatient and results-driven. They don’t beat around the bush and aren’t good listeners.

Amiable: These people-oriented leaders are friendly and easygoing. They lead with empathy and are concerned about what others think. They love working with others and treasure relationships above all else.

Expressive: This is the most flamboyant style as these leaders bristle with energy. They are visionaries and can be impulsive. They struggle with time management and have a need to “talk out” their ideas.

Perhaps you see yourself reflected in one of these styles. Your staff can probably point to which of those sets of behaviors best describes you. Taking an assessment could help you dive further into your style and how it affects your company.

Skeptics might think these tests are armchair psychology and no better than a magazine quiz. While no questionnaire is going to unlock the secrets of anyone’s soul, these can be a helpful way of finding empathy for each other. Being able to label someone’s behavior — and even our own behavior — is one step toward being able to resolve conflict inside our teams.

Being an Effective Leader

The hallmark of a great leader is not the style in which they lead — there is no right or wrong — but having the self-awareness and empathy to use that information to lead effectively. Understanding the style of your plumbers and staff can help you understand how you need to adjust to each other in order to work best together.

Because leadership goes beyond managerial practices, any person in your company can become a leader. The question is whether or not it’s your message they are spreading. You can have leaders within your organization, but make sure that you are the leader. The vision, ultimately, has to be yours.

Authority is either given or earned. Earned authority is preferable. Bad managers are given authority, but they’ve not earned the right to be a leader. Employees are inevitably going to follow the leader they most respect and align with. If that person is not executing your vision, you have lost control of your company.

To be an effective leader, you should earn the right to lead — not just manage — your employees. This will lead to better morale, improved communication, and increased productivity. It’s about knowing who people are and what motivates them so that everyone is in the right position to do their best work.

About the Author
Anja Smith is managing partner for All Clear Plumbing in Greenville, South Carolina. She can be reached at


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