Management vs. Leadership

Managers as leaders?  Of course they are.  But so are many others in an organization.  It’s been said that managers look after things, and leaders look after people.  Logic might suggest, that if the tasks don’t involve other people, then there is no requirement for leadership.

Now Stephen Covey relates a great story in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People –a group is tasked to clear a path through the jungle.  The manager organizes each task such as sharpening machetes, removing brush and making schedules for the workers.  The leader climbs a tall ladder and looks over the top of the canopy.  After scanning the horizon, he shouts down, ‘Wrong jungle!”  To which the manager replies – “Shut up – We’re making progress!”

This story illustrates a somewhat narrow perspective of how a manager may doggedly work to carry out an assignment without questioning the purpose, goal or even its effectiveness.  But this is only one example of the difference between the leadership and managers.

The role of manager is an assignment giving one authority over others.  The purpose is to organize and direct all resources – including people – to complete tasks efficiently.  Management is based upon the assumption that once more than a few people are assigned a task or objective; there is a requirement to have an individual with authority to direct activities.  For example in the army you may have a fire team of a few soldiers working independently. Once they require more soldiers, a supervisor – corporal is assigned to lead a squad of say 8-13 soldiers. When several squads combine they require a Sergeant for a platoon and so on. The terms and numbers may well vary among nations.

The second perspective is that all people are at times leaders and they don’t need formal authority to exercise this skill.  For example, we all have a way of leading others within our ‘circle of influence’.  An example may be when we help a fellow worker, or set an example by taking initiative that gets noticed by others. These can have an impact and may inspire others to take action.  This influence of changing other people’s behaviour not often credited to good leadership – and yet it may occur at almost anytime that we are in contact with others.

So, managers are leaders.  But as my son once told me when he was only 12….”Dad, just remember you’re ‘special’ and ‘unique’ – ….. just like everybody else”.   Next time you have a chance to observe a manager (or anyone with authority), notice how they perform.  Do they rely on their authority or their leadership? And how easy is it for others to recognize the difference?

In the next topic we address how we often think of leaders as people in power and control.  And yet this may only be a result of their given authority.  We will discuss the responsibilities of authority.

Leadership – the Civilized Animal

Why is it that we deny our animal instincts?  Is it that we feel superior to the beasts in this wonderful world?

What natural behaviours can we observe in animals that help us reflect on our own desires – and ultimately our behaviour?

For leadership, I suggest we look at a variety of  ‘social animals’.  It is in this context that we may discover why we feel and react as we do when it comes to leadership.

Some speakers such as Simon Sinek articulate this point with great clarity.  His TED talk resonates with my own values on leadership.  Perhaps it is because I have been cut from the ‘Fighter Aviation’ cloth where leadership is valued and cultivated throughout our professional lives.

But it is the animal world where we can observe how the pack instincts behave for the benefit of the many.  Whether this is in our community, family, business, or educational institution, we have a natural behavioural instinct and thus organize our structures to support leaders and followers.

When we stray from these natural behaviours and patterns, we quickly discover that we are falling ‘off purpose’.  Our performance suffers and our harmony stumbles and ceases to resonate with the safety and success of our collective wellbeing.

What leadership behaviours do you find in your organisation that emulate a wolf pack?



Ladies & Gentleman, This is uh – your Pilot?

It is a little humiliating to share my first P.A. with you as a new pilot with Air Canada.  Being a Fighter Pilot, this skill was not part of my portfolio.  You can imagine, I was anxious to do it just right. The plane was a Boeing 727 and I was the third pilot.  Sitting sideways as a Flight Engineer wasn’t the biggest thrill after the ethereal excitement of flying F-18’s but it was a starting position in a great new career.  Our 137 passengers were enroute from Ottawa to Edmonton and I was going to provide them with an update on our route.  Being prepared, I wrote my script about an hour early so I would have time to practice and complete my many systems checks prior to the grand oration.


‘Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, I would like to give you an update from the cockpit.  We are at 35,000’ over Lake Winnipeg and our time to destination is 2 hours and 10 minutes. The latest weather is … blah blah blah.’


It was written, read and rehearsed in my head until I was certain I would do the company and most of all my entire crew, proud.  So, time passed and I eventually picked up the mic – and gave it my best.  I was quite proud, as it went well with no uhhs and or lengthy pauses. I even did the translation into French.  So feeling relieved, I continued my duties and light conversation with the other two pilots.


Then the flight attendant came up and asked if we had a map.  A map?  We’re pilots! Of course, why would she ask that?  They were actually aeronautical charts but they provided us our position and we knew exactly where we were.  This was before GPS, I might smugly add.  Then she said, never mind – it is just there is a German tourist onboard and he thinks of himself as a pretty good navigator and wondered where we were.


When she left, I leaned forward to glanced outside from my heavily instrumented side panel console.


My heart sank.


We were not anywhere near Lake Winnipeg – yet!  I had picked up my personal script early and rattled it off while over the numerous tiny lakes of Northwest Ontario.


I can’t remember if I confessed my error to the others. I think I did and they laughed it off – but I never forgot that day.  Could that be a lesson for prepare and then prepare again? Or was it simply a lesson to prepare, then sit back and assess all of the environmental and external variables before pick up the mic?

Pilot Announcements Part 1

I didn’t always know much about public speaking but as an Airline Pilot I did know how NOT to make an announcement.

“Ladies and Gentlemen: I hope you are enjoying your flight.  For those of you on the right side of the aircraft, you have a magnificent view of Niagara Falls.  One of nature’s greatest wonders. Notice from your unique vantage point that you can take in all of it’s glorious splendour – yada yada….  And for those of you on the left side of the aircraft?  Well … you should have booked your seat on the right.”

Funny but – to isolate a portion of your audience is both unfair and breaks trust.  And in the airline business, the marketing leverage of the pilot is – trust.

I also got a kick out of a story where the pilot of a smaller airliner encouraged all to  take a peak out the right window and with caution but curiosity, the passengers unstrapped and stepped across the aisle leaning on their neighbor’s armrest to catch the view.  When most were in position, he banked the aircraft to the right and proclaimed with urgency – ‘Not all at once!’.  A terrible practical joke to nervous passengers –

Building trust?  Hmm.

Until next time,  ‘Fasten your Seat belts, sit back and relax..”