When to lead and when to manage

You lead people, yourself included. You manage situations.

Nobody worth their salt likes to be “managed”.  Trying to manage people, that is; using threats of punishment, promises of reward, passive aggressive comments, subtle (or not so subtle) hints, and sundry other insincere “techniques” designed to elicit a change in behavior, borders on sociopathic.  It’s disrespectful and condescending.

It will lose you the best people and the ones that put up with it will be with you for the wrong reasons, making high performance unlikely.

The people you want in your team, I call them thinking followers, are motivated by the opportunity of doing meaningful work that they enjoy, with other people they respect, in an environment that invites and fosters their creativity.

Your role as the boss is to inspire and challenge and support them.

Yes, management is required.  Processes, scheduling, logistics, supply lines, and administration all need to be well managed.  And there are “people situations” that need to be handled – interpersonal conflict, irrational behavior, emotional outbursts, even plain old mistakes.  Just remember that people are people, not things.  This post might help.

I can’t stress this enough:  people should not be managed.  Your job is to provide real leadership.

And above all, your people need to be inspired to take the lead themselves.  That will never happen if they suspect they’re being “managed”.

Why independence doesn’t mean being a lone wolf.


Main Squeeze sent me this a few days ago; said it reminded her of me.  You see I don’t enjoy organizational politics at all (who does?) and I’ve never been much good at kow-towing.

I shared it with my friend and business partner, who wondered if “wolves”, being great at “lone”, might then not be good at playing on a team.  At the time I thought that’s maybe where the analogy breaks down, but in hindsight the comparison of a wolf to an independent man or woman is apt. (Doesn’t that always happen – you think of what to say, but way, way too late.)

Being of independent mind does not mean going it alone.  It means thinking for yourself and deciding when its good to work with others.

Working in a team, even one with a leader, doesn’t mean you need to bow, buckle under, or “perform”.  It means you acknowledge that your interests are aligned with the groups’; that cooperating will get you all further; that you’re hunting in a pack, as it were.

The thing is, if you’re the leader of the pack, remember that your goals, (your own, and the organizations’), will be better served if those on your team are “thinking followers“, not performing animals.  Interact with them accordingly and they’ll stay engaged and motivated.  Treat them like monkeys and the better ones will be gone, and those left will not move unless you say so, or promise them a treat.

Whether you lead only your self, or a team of one hundred, your foundational attribute has to be independence.  That is, you need to choose to stay switched on and focused; you must be willing to think, analyze, judge, and make decisions; and you need the courage, confidence and drive to initiate action.

Sometimes you’ll choose to follow the direction set by someone else, or to take advice, or to work collaboratively.  Never should you jump because your fear a whip or want shiny baubles.







Boss versus Leader – not so clear cut.

Boss vs Leader

No attribution. No copyright infringement intended. Let me know if it’s your work.


Intuitively, the picture resonates.  We’ve all had the petty-tyrant boss; the person who loves the sound of their own voice and is oblivious to the resentment and de-motivation they’re engendering.

And most of us can relate to the manager who loves to roll up his sleeves and jump in on the line.

But don’t be fooled.  There’s a problem with the scenario that this image paints, especially when it comes to larger teams with significant division of labour:

You can’t fly at 40,000 feet and be on the tarmac at the same time.

If you as the organizational leader are always “hands-on”, who’s doing your job?  To belabor the cheap analogies; if the captain is always in the engine room, the ship’s going to run aground.


Don’t “lord it” over your team.  Challenge them, but don’t be a slave-driver.  Be nice, respectful, sincere, and above all, just.  But recognize that their job is not yours.  They need to be accountable for their role, just as you need to be accountable for yours.

In a pinch, get in the trenches and dig.  But if you need to do that regularly, you’re not doing your job properly; you’re just a very overpaid member of the team.

When it comes to that bromide about being “Hands On”, here’s the rule to follow:

Be hands-on as much as necessary, but as little as possible.

And over time, given that a part of your job as “boss” is to develop your reports, you should be hands-on less and less.  That will be easier if you master the art of delegation.

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Apologies for all the links, hope they weren’t distracting and that you find some of the material useful.

Questions or comments – feel free.







Self Control. The Holy Grail of Success and Happiness?

Research over the last decade is supporting what should be intuitive:  the ability to control your self is causally linked to success in most aspects of life – academic achievement, career success, good relationships, happiness.

Think of it this way:  if you always did what you should, when you should, and if you could always delay gratification when the short term trade-off would lead to a greater long term benefit, would you be more successful, achieve more, be happier?

Peaked your interest?  I’m doing some research on this and hope to present some distilled and essentialized information and “how to” data in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, here’s a couple resources:

A set of lectures at Audible, by C. Nathan DeWall:

Scientific Secrets for Self Control

Paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

Self-Control Relies on Glucose as a Limited Energy Source:  Willpower is More Than a Metaphor

One hour lecture by Roy Baumeister:

What you need to know about “Astroturfing”, otherwise known as organized lying.

“Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to the totalitarian state”

~ Noam Chomsky

I’m no fan of Noam Chomsky, but he got that right.

I suspect that a good deal of what we see, hear, and read in the public domain is manipulated.  I posted on one aspect of that, the kowtowing of media companies to the wishes of advertisers and sponsors, here: When Truth Doesn’t matter. (Come back to it later?)

Now, deliberate programs of mis-direction, mis-information, obfuscation, and ridicule have a name: “Astroturfing

Here’s Sharyl Attkisson (@SharlAttkisson) on the faking of grassroots movements as campaigns of propaganda in the service of political, corporate, or other special interests.

I dislike the term, but here it’s apt; this is “must see“.

As a take-away, here’s what you need to watch out for when you’re trying to work out whether some position, opinion, or argument is truth or lying propaganda:

Charged language.

The truth usually comes calm and factual.  Liars and spinners use emotive rhetoric to cloak their lack of facts and proof.

Ad Hominem attacks.

If you can’t beat the argument, attack your opponent’s character.  Ridicule, discredit, impugn.  Straight from the Saul Alinsky playbook.

Questioning those who question authority.

Classic misdirection.  If they’re not questioning “authority”, but rather, questioning those that do, you have to wonder about their motivation.

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And because I fear that there’s serious astroturfing going on at a macro-political level, we’ll give the last word to a master of lying big:

“We have made the Reich by propaganda”

~ Joseph Goebbels

So you think you can write a professional letter?

The art of letter writing is not forgotten, at least not by Nicolas Di Tempora over at Copywriting in Action.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the emails you receive at work were written like this?  Clear, to the point, effective.

Give the people you communicate with a break – see below to learn how to write compelling, concise, objective letters and emails.

And go see Nicolas’ website if you’d like more information and courses on writing effectively.


Delivering Happiness

When I get time to read again, one of the first books on my list is “Delivering Happiness”, by Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh.  Also on that list will be several of the books in the presentation below.

Maybe there’s a few here for you too.  I’ve only read some of these, so can’t vouch for them all, but anyone who is as obsessed with team and customer happiness as Tony seems to be, must be at least a better-than-average judge of on-topic reading material.