Are you Leading Your Firm or Managing It?

by | May 30, 2019 | Blog

One area that may keep advisors from elevating is a lack of strong leadership in their practice. While businesses need both leaders and managers to stay competitive, and advisors often have to wear both hats, we would argue that being a leader is more important to your overall future success than being a manager.

First, let’s distinguish between the two.  Here’s a quick snapshot of the differences:


  • Vision Focused
  • Mindset is in the Future
  • Concerned with the big picture
  • Energized by new ideas
  • Delegates easily


  • Process Focused
  • Mindset is in the Present
  • Concerned with the details
  • Overwhelmed by new ideas
  • High need for control

The horse should come before the cart and direct the cart forward. When it comes to your practice, your vision is the horse, and your process is the cart.  Without vision, there is nothing to set into motion. At one point your vision triggered the establishment of your advisory practice. To make the vision happen, you may have moved into manager mode to figure out the details. Advisors who stay in manager mode are at risk for becoming stagnant and losing their competitive edge; for it is with steady leadership and renewed vision that businesses move forward.

When you manage your practice, you are focused on the present. As a manager, you want to make sure your business runs like a well-oiled machine. When new ideas or suggestions are offered, these may be seen more as problems and annoyances rather than opportunities. Managers do not want an interruption to their businesses and are less likely to take risks and try something new. Managers are slower to adapt when shifts in the industry occur and more reluctant to implement new technology.

Leaders are less concerned with the current mechanics of the business and more focused on how to make it run faster, bigger or better. New information and ideas are met with enthusiasm. Suggestions are not seen as obstacles but rather opportunities. Details are quickly delegated to those with more specific knowledge to figure out the mechanics. Leaders inspire change, dismiss concerns and drive their practices towards transformation. Leaders anticipate industry changes and are typically early adopters of new technology.

Without strong leadership, there is no direction in which to move your business forward, and without strong management, the business is unable to move forward. Since both are needed, we propose you determine which you tend to be more of, a leader or a manager. It’s possible you are good at both and can easily balance. However, if you are more leadership oriented, you’ll want to find a detail-oriented manager to partner with that can implement your ideas freeing up your time to think of new ones. If you lean toward being more of a manager than a leader, you’ll want to align with a partner who is excited by change, likes to collaborate with others for new ideas, and is always thinking one step ahead for the business.

In a time of immense opportunity for advisors to acquire and merge advisory practices, the differences in leadership styles should not be overlooked. The goal is to build an advisory practice with both strong leadership and strong management.