Much has been written about managers vs. leaders. But I’ve realized whether at home or in the office, certain behaviors clearly define whether you’re operating as a manager or a leader. So, maybe you’re reading this as parent who wants to lead a household vs. manage one. Or perhaps you’re considering your work context. Either way, have a look at the below chart – do your actions demonstrate management or leadership?

Do your actions demonstrate Management or Leadership?


I’ll admit, my engineering mind jumps right into project planning. For me, as a project takes shape, a decision tree often forms in the air, right before my eyes! So even today after years in leadership roles, I need to take a step back at the start of a project to ensure we’re all operating against the same vision and goals.

Project start- Management or Leadership?

As we looked for a new home this fall, we defined our parameters before jumping into zillow. We asked the important question: what role does this house play in our lives? Do we need a reliable roof over our heads placed at a convenient location, or are we craving a safe haven? Will the place be more a hosting venue for joyful get togethers, or provide a quiet place of reflection?

And at work, we should ask why are we initiating every single piece of work. Because in fact, we’re too busy not to pause and ask this question. Someone recently invited me to a meeting to present an initiative they’ve been working on. But not having enrolled folks in the beginning, or ensured it was aligned with our company’s priorities, the project was a bit off the mark. I felt terrible declining the meeting, but in a resource-constrained environment, we must put our time on priority work. That’s why leaders need to ensure the right folks are enrolled, engaged, and energized against the organization’s priorities.


Are we examining the body language and expressions on folks’ faces, or are we tracking deliverables? At home, if Laini looks weary, I don’t ask how much homework she has left. Rather, I ask if she needs water or a quick boba break. See, her executive function is quite high, so she doesn’t need someone to manage her. However, she does benefit from someone who’s sensitive to how she’s feeling. (This is not to say that no child needs management, this is just our own circumstance and I don’t take it for granted!)

In the same way at work, managers get drawn to track project progress and address problems. Why? Because they’re tangible and we as humans are drawn to solvable problems. But did you know, the higher up you go, the fewer easy problems there are to solve? In fact, all the easy problems have been solved by the time things get to you. So, rather than looking for issues to resolve, anticipate issues that people who are mired in the work may not have thought of. And support and motivate your team through the process.

Why and How more important- Management or Leadership?


Don’t get me wrong: management actions are often necessary. But when the context is right, you may be able to lean into leadership behaviors. Which actions do you default to?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you wrap:

  • Do people thank you for helping them achieve their goals, or do they express appreciation in how you supported their personal development?
  • Are folks beaming in satisfaction at a job well done, or do they glow from the knowledge that they’ve expanded their skill set and can now do even more?
  • Is the team looking backwards to capture key learns, or are they focused on the future and what more they can accomplish?

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