Leaders vs Managers

General Colin Powell

There is a difference between leaders and managers.

When leaders are taking withering fire, they figure out their best move, then lead their troops accordingly.

Good leaders lead from the front. They are the first ones who face the threat. They inspire others by their actions. Managers, on the other hand, are more like the people in the circus parade who follow the elephants, broom, shovel, and receptacle at the ready.

The skills of a leader are visible and honest (bear with me here). They move forward and face what their people face, but they face it first.

Managers develop a variety of techniques that make it look like they’re hard-charging executive material without taking any risks. They know that if one makes any—ANY—decisions, one is in danger. Therefore, whenever they face a decision, they create the illusion of work without trying to accomplish anything. It’s the business version of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.

Managers know it is easy to make it look like they are doing great work without accomplishing ANYTHING! Here’s what they do.

  1. Call a meeting.
  2. Form a committee (aka “Tiger Team”, “Quality Circle”, “Task Force”, or “Cub Scout Troop”.
  3. Have a committee meeting to define the challenge.
  4. Send all the committee members to Six-Sigma training (Look at how well it worked for General Electric!) or something similar.
  5. Wait for everyone to finish. (Since attendance will be staggered, this will take many months.)
  6. Have the committee meet to reacquaint themselves with one another. This may take several meetings over a period of weeks or, for an experienced manager, months.
  7. Have the committee prepare a PowerPoint slide presentation. (It does not matter if there is a specific audience it is to be presented to or not.)
  8. Review the presentation and ask for more data.
  9. Review the presentation again and ask for more data again.
  10. After a few weeks, the PowerPoint presentation will have been reviewed, revised, reversed, rewound, and re-presented.
  11. Review the PowerPoint slides and when you can no longer find anything to criticize.
  12. Schedule a meeting with the Big Boss. Although you have been removed from the entire process and have little or no idea as to what all your teams’ hard work means, make this a one-on-one meeting.
  13. Big Boss reviews the PowerPoints, asks a few questions and thanks you.
  14. The business continues doing things the way they always have
  15. You get a bonus for your hard work.
  16. Your people, who did all the work, may (or may not) get the basic cost-of-living raise.

Who would you rather be? The leader who goes before his people and faces risk, or the manager who stays safe, demands more data, and never has to make a real decision?

Which one has a better chance of retiring with a pension and an intact body, including all limbs?

It’s your choice.

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