Management Articles


Leadership Needed More Than Ever

By: Gregory P. Smith

Greg Smith's cutting-edge keynotes, consulting, and training programs have helped businesses reduce turnover, increase sales, hire superior people, and deliver better customer service. As President and founder of Chart Your Course International, He has implemented professional development programs for thousands of organizations globally. Greg has authored eight informative books including Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce from High Turnover to High Retention and 401 Proven Ways to Retain Your Best Employees. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, visit or call (770) 860-9464.

What is the difference between a manager and a leader? Answer: EVERYTHING. The lights are on, but nobody is home. Most organizations suffer from lack of leadership. A leader is a person that inspires you to take a journey to a destination you wouldn't go to by yourself. A manager maintains status quo. A leader charts a course and constantly looks over the horizon.

Rapid changes in technology, competition, deregulation and fragmentation of markets, increasing diversity of the workforce, are forcing companies to adapt quickly to new circumstances. Change in the business environment was at one time, orderly and incremental. They are indiscriminate and much more dramatic now. Peter Drucker puts it bluntly by saying: "Every organization has to prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.” This situation calls for more than managers. It requires leaders. The two are by no means synonymous. Following is a table comparing and contrasting the main differences of both the manger and the leader:
- Planning and budgeting - Charts a course providing direction
- Organizing and staffing - Provides guidance and counsel
- Follows orders - People follow their example
- Controlling and solves problems - Motivates and inspires
- Maintains control and order - Creates an environment for change
- Protects status quo - Builds relationships and trust
- Writes memorandums - Trains and teaches
- Follows rules and regulations - Questions rules and regulations
- Technical orientation - Strategic orientation

The Traits of an Innovative Leader

Leaders do not become leaders because of a title or job description. They only become leaders when their people accept them as leaders. Many people believe managers can automatically become good leaders. Others believe that people are born natural leaders. These two statements can't be further from the truth. While the most influential leaders seem to have a charismatic talent, almost anyone can learn how to become a better leader. It takes work, trail and error, and most importantly--commitment. There are eight main traits leaders seem to share:
  1. They have a mission-Good leaders have a defining mission in their life. This mission is called many things...a purpose, an obsession or a calling. Whatever it is called is unimportant. But what is important is that this mission, above all other traits, separates managers from leaders. The movie “Pvt. Ryan” clearly demonstrated this point. The Captain (Tom Hanks) was able to unite his men and create purpose toward their horrific mission to find and rescue Pvt. Ryan.

  2. They create a vision. A clear picture of a future goal will help its achievement. Good leaders have big ideas and dare others to be great. Billy Payne ignited a vision in the hearts and minds of the people of Georgia and the world. His vision caught fire and brought the Centennial Olympics to Atlanta. Despite criticism and naysayers, it was one of the best games ever. When the games ended, Billy Payne said, “I am a nondescript, regular old person” who had an idea.’

  3. They trust their employees. With the diminishing influence of the traditional command-and-control structure, responsibility is pushed down through the ranks to rely on the ideas and energies of all workers. This delegation of authority requires that employees have a voice in the decision-making process which takes away some of the manager's power and control.

  4. They keep their heads in a crisis. Leaders take a position and defend it when things go awry. Being graceful and brave under fire is the surest way to building credibility.

  5. They encourage risk-taking. If a company does not examine new ways of doing things, if it does not push out its boundaries, if it never makes mistakes - they may become roadkill. Herb Kelleher's, CEO of Southwest Airlines, has a nonconformist leadership philosophy. Herb feels everyone is a leader and he empowers people to make decisions. To fight bureaucratic rules and regulations, he pushes decision making authority to the lowest possible level. As Herb says it, "We tell our people that we value inconsistency."

  6. They are experts. Good leaders are intimately familiar with their company's products and services. Nothing replaces experience on the front-line. All executives, managers and supervisors should spend time on the front-line finding out what is happening and what is in the way of keeping the workforce from doing their best. Again, it is a question of establishing credibility. People know immediately when a superior is 'winging it' and they stop listening.

  7. They know what is essential. Leaders have a remarkable ability to zero in on what is important. They can simplify complex problems elegantly without taking the easy way out.

  8. They are teachers and mentors. In this rapid changing environment, organizations must create a learning environment. The senior people must be teaching and training those who may soon replace them. We are not necessarily talking about formal classroom training. We need leaders talking to people In the hallway, in the restaurant . . . everywhere. Everyone should be mentoring someone.

© Copyright 2000 Gregory P. Smith

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