As a small business owner you carry a lot of weight on your shoulders. 

On a daily basis you have to battle cashflow, manage employees and come up with ideas to grow your business. Then there’s the constant firefighting when things don’t go to plan. 

It’s easy to get so caught up in managing your business that you lose sight of the bigger picture – leading your business.

The terms ‘managing’ and ‘leading’ are often used interchangeably. However, there are important distinctions between them. 

Different functions

  • Leaders set the direction of a small business. They are responsible for inspiring, motivating and getting people excited about this vision. When times are tough, they keep morale up, and motivate people to overcome obstacles. 
  • Managers are more task-focused. Their role is to work on the everyday details that will help achieve the small business’ vision, such as goals, targets and quotas. 

Heart vs brain 

If you visualise a body, leaders are the heart of a business while managers are the brain. 

  • A good leader builds relationships with people through understanding their needs and wants. They enable their team. They rally and inspire people to believe in the small business’ vision, wanting to make it a reality.
  • Managers build systems, processes and procedures to achieve the business’ goals. For managers, people are there to get the job done.   

In the simplest terms, you manage ‘things’ while you lead people. 

Why you need to both manage and lead

For any small business to grow, it needs to have both managers and leaders at the top. 

As most small businesses don’t have the luxury of being able to hire extra people, the task of doing both will often end up being the owner’s responsibility. 

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get tied up in the day-to-day aspects of managing a small business, to the detriment of leading it. 

You have to know where you want your business to be going, and keep your eyes toward this direction. Otherwise you will never get there.