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Gini Dietrich

The 12 Traits of Managers and of Leaders

By: Gini Dietrich | April 18, 2011 | 
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This first ran on HMA Time, the blog for the agency where my dear friend, Abbie Fink, is a partner. If you saw it there first, you can skip to the comments today. That’s the good stuff anyway!

I remember being a young whippersnapper in the big agency world (come on; it wasn’t THAT long ago!). I could not wait until someone gave me a chance to manage others. I just knew that would be my big break!

The chance came a lot sooner that I expected…or probably deserved. I was all of maybe 25 and a young woman a couple of years older than me was on probation. My supervisor really wanted to give her one more shot at turning things around and she figured it was a good way for me to cut my teeth on management.

I failed. Miserably.

The young woman on probation wasn’t going to make it, but no one told me that. I met with her once a day to review the goals she’d be given and to provide feedback on where to improve. The first couple of meetings were hard – she did NOT want to be there (and, really, who can blame her?). And then she just stopped showing up. She was gone about two weeks after they’d “given” her to me to manage.

From there, I began to move up the ladder, to my great surprise. Who promotes a person who can’t keep someone employed for more than two weeks? But I guess that was just a test to see how I would handle myself; not to see if she’d stay.

But on my reviews every year, I heard a lot of really great things and two worrisome things:

Learn to be more strategic and stop complimenting people all the time. You have to be critical and give people things to work on. If all you do is compliment them, they’ll never learn.

So what did I do? I stopped complimenting so much. Great management tool, huh? And I didn’t get any better. I like to help people feel good about the work they do. I hate to be micromanaged. And I hate process and structure. I assumed everyone worked that way. Turns out those are three really bad traits for a manager.

I began to feel badly about myself and tried really hard to develop traits that I was told made a good manager. I kept stalling.

Managers vs. Leaders

What no one recognized in me were my leadership traits; they were too busy trying to fit me into their corporate ladder box. And I didn’t know the difference between manager and leader (or had the confidence) to be able to say, “Yoo hoo! This isn’t the right fit for me!”

So what’s the difference, you ask?

I love the way the Wall Street Journal defines it:

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

The nice thing is that organizations need both managers and leaders; there isn’t a right way or a wrong way. It’s up to you to define which you are and have the confidence to stand up and say, “Yoo hoo! This isn’t for me!”

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

67 comments
MelanieKissell
MelanieKissell

Bravissimo!! 

What a fabulous piece, Gini -- thank you!  There's a huge undertone these days (and I hope a grassroots movement and outright revolution) regarding corporate management, in particular.  Geez Leweez.  As a sector of business and society, they're not exactly establishing a stellar reputation for themselves. :(

tnsemployeeinsights
tnsemployeeinsights

Gini, I really enjoyed this post! Some other great traits of effective leaders, outlined by TNS Employee Insights include:

Strong Solving Skills: Effective leaders can solve complex problems quickly. They have the ability to identify common themes across multiple issues and develop solutions to problems that can have a quick impact. Ability to influence: Effective leaders can influence behaviors and direct actions to obtain a desired outcome. In this dynamic, exercising control over processes in an area of purview is important, but influencing others and trusting them to follow through is equally so. An essential aspect of this trait is the ability to be assertive and exercise authority in a manner that is not demeaning to others. Emotional resilience: Having the fortitude to withstand the stress and pressures that result from change, effective leaders achieve results and overcome resistance. They are optimistic, perseverant, and exhibit a level of confidence in themselves and in others. Extraverted: Effective leaders demonstrate a strong desire to connect with other people. They accomplish a mission through voluntary contributions of others and need strong relationship-building skills; however, individuals must also be able to stand on their own in difficult circumstances and not be overly dependent on the approval of others. Practicality: Exhibiting good balance between being practical and visionary, tough and compassionate, and factual and intuitive, effective leaders know which style to apply in difficult business situations. Self Control: Effective leaders balance the desire for rapid change in addressing business challenges with the need for organization and accuracy before taking action. In their relationships, individuals are conscientious and behave in a consistent manner to establish respect and trust.

jenzings
jenzings

Like most things in life, it's about striking the appropriate balance for each situation. I get the feeling from many of the comments here that managers=the suck, and that leaders=awesome. As you've repeatedly stated, often you need both. I'm struck by what people are taking away from this is that managers are inherently a negative force, when the WSJ piece you link to specifically says "Leadership and management must go hand in hand. They are not the same thing. But they are necessarily linked, and complementary. Any effort to separate the two is likely to cause more problems than it solves."

Balance. In everything, balance.

Rileyhar
Rileyhar

So the moral of the Wall Street Journal tale is leaders (and all other creative types) beware of managers; they are not your friends.

Riley

ladylaff
ladylaff

Thank you so much Gini for sharing this story. I had a very similar experience and lost my way and my self confidence for a few difficult years because I listened to people who I thought knew better. I ended up in some horrible, embarrassing situations with clients because I was doing things that managers insisted I should be doing but went sharply against my own instincts. People with leadership personalities can actually be very intimidated by managers who see things less ambiguously and therefore come across as 'right' through their sheer conviction. The happy ending is that I really learned from these experiences and now run my own company in line with my own personal values and ethics.

ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

Very thought provoking.

Traits more like a leader although have worked jobs where they don't want a leader... Perhaps this is why I gravitate to the independent practices that allow for a sort of "self-employment" situation.

Another good one

BobReed
BobReed

Leaders pick up the ball -- whatever that ball is -- and they run. I had the unfortunate task to write and manage the production of an annual report for a sleepy insurance company during my days at JWT. I did this for three years straight, and each year I ended up hanging out by my thumbs by a petulant, egotistical creative director because I didn't follow HIS vision. "I'm washing my hands of this project", he'd sniff. Well, keeping the client happy was my job, so each time I marshaled by available resources, and each year I produced that annual report. And the one thing the client was most concerned with was someone finding a typo. None were ever found. I think I did display the leadership traits you referenced. I just didn't know it at the time.

Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

What goes around comes around. As George Burns once said, "When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick."

I remember intense debates about "managers" v. "leaders" back in the 70s and 80s. Y'know, it really doesn't matter what you call yourself. What matters is that the people whom you manage/lead genuinely achieve things at work and stretch and grow and develop themselves professionally and make a measurable , meaningful contribution to the success of the business.

I remember a statement made in the late 70s by the then head of The Australian Graduate School of Management. He was giving the keynote address at a national training conference when he said, "You are not part of the Great Employee Relations Crusade led by the Training Brigade."

And always remember, be you leader or manager or your own idiosyncratic hybrid: if your systems are poor, your people will fail.

And make sure you have fun.

Regards

Leon

TheJackB
TheJackB

A thousand years ago when I was a 20 something year-old man who knew that he was smarter than his boss and several of his bosses I learned some very hard lessons about managing and being managed.

One of them was that some people like being managed. I hate being told what to do so very much that at the time I couldn't imagine that others would like it.

We were a manufacturer and the "senior" team was made up of people who didn't deign to tell the sales and marketing teams about the new products.

I had no patience for being made to look stupid in front of customers. Said customers knew about these new products because they received information from the company that wasn't passed on to us.

So I sent out an email to everyone on the senior management team and copied all of the people on my team. Idiot that I was I thought that I helping everyone. Instead I brought the "wrath of god" down upon my head from those above me and was berated by those who worked with me for doing too much.

feliciahudson
feliciahudson

Great post, Gini! As a nonconformist, I really identify with all the comments made here, especially @skooloflife's. Another factor in the leader vs. manager discussion is the company or organization's culture. Some companies reward conformity (even if you're not an effective manager) and penalyze individualism. They say they want innovators--but only as long as you can "innovate" within their confines. I know of a company that gives employees a Predictive Index test and hires/promotes people based on the "likelihood" of the person to succeed. If I waited for people to give me their stamp of approval on whether or not I could succeed, I'd never do anything!!

I think the flaw in many organizations today is to try to make every employee follow a traditional path instead of finding a way to use employees' unique traits to their advantage.

I recently launched my own copywriting business for this very reason. Although it's challenging wearing all the hats (especially because, I too, like to sit around and ruminate on the big ideas all day for myself and my clients), It forces you to to focus on what you do best and then hire or contract the best people to manage your weaker areas. Well, I can't really afford to do that now, but I will! :-)

Thanks for the inspiration today!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Oh I totally wiped out vacuuming the steps a bit ago. Dropped 6 steps to the ground. I have to admit this because @ginidietrich always inspires people with her failures and struggles as much as success. I am here with an ice back on my left butt because I refuse to let this prevent me from commenting!

Great post Gini! I agree with you. I notice there are 3 types of workers. Leaders, Managers, and Followers/Peons. And often they don't like it when people graduate or challenge. I used the word Peons because I have noticed in big companies they get taken for granted and abused. I have seen CEO's looting companies with big stock grants while line workers get nothing but cost of living raises for years. I have seen Managers ruffle and get bent when a person they want to be a Follower challenges them with good ideas.

There are A LOT of people who just want a job get paid well and enjoy life not worrying about Managing or anything stressful but are really talented and afraid to act on it. And many Managers think they should be leading but they have melt downs when asked to leave a comfort zone or change direction. And many leaders think they can manage and have a hard time delegating.

Quite the dilemma is you ask me. But when you do case studies on best in class and worst in class you can tell who has it right.

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

I had to lead a company through a transition once, while managing a group of women who had been there for years and were used to "managers". It was awful. I got the company out of a hole, built it's reputation back up, and then helped sell it. That was all well and good for the owner, but the ladies hated my style of managing, which I realize now was more the leadership than the management style. They were very uncomfortable with my big picture approach to things and on snow days in the south...look out if you don't tell them exactly what we're doing, who's coming to work, who's getting paid and who's not. It was not my cup of tea.

I was very happy with what I did for the company and it's owner at the time, but thoroughly disliked managing. Now that I have my own gig and have a part-time employee with me, it's still a challenge to balance managing and leading. Ask @autumnmthompson , I love to have the big ideas, inspire the action, but managing the day to day is something I have to force myself to do! Luckily, she's a 'go with the flow" kind of girl and gets me, plus she's great with details. But I can't always hire just that type of personality, right? So, what do you do, Gini? How do you manage and lead, or is it possible?

KensViews
KensViews

While most leaders need to be good managers, one can be a good manager without truly being a leader. The problem is that many managers get promoted into positions of leadership before their leadership skills are honed. I interviewed a number of PR leaders for an article I wrote a few years back on "From Manager to Leader" for PRSA's Public Relations Strategist. Hope your followers will give it a read and let me know what they think: http://bit.ly/Man2Lead

JamesDBurrell2
JamesDBurrell2

A manager seeks obedience; a leader seeks to inspire action. To me, a manager wields an entitled sense of power, and thus, tries to command respect. I've never been one to grant respect to anyone before it is earned, and as such, I do not assume to require it of anyone until I've earned it myself.

@KenMueller made a great point below. Sometimes a leader knows when to let others lead. Empowerment of others is the greatest thing any leader can do.

John Falchetto
John Falchetto

The tricky part in most firms is how the two get along? Too much leadership and nothing gets done well, and not enough, well people loose heart and leave.

The balancing act is a tough one. You can almost tell by the way a company runs, who is running it, the managers or its leader(s).

How do you balance both Gini?

janbeery
janbeery

Gini, I love the Wall Street Journal's Management vs Leadership list!

I have had some great management mentors and some poor management stiflers. The great ones truly lead me and the poor ones controlled me.

I've found that the best way to manage is to lead. Have confidence in your abilities and bring out the best in others. If I have someone on my team that requires a great deal of babysitting, I've got the wrong person and yes, I do compliment. Everyone loves to know they're on the right track, doing well and appreciated. Even the Leader!

TheJackB
TheJackB

Managing people sounds like code for babysitting and I don't do that. While I don't expect that everyone is going to be an all star I have found that if you give people tools to succeed most will try to do so.

nateriggs
nateriggs

The good news for you and everyone who fits into the leader mold, is that leaders are indispensable and usually get paid more in the end. :)

JudyDunn
JudyDunn

Gini,

Thought-provoking post here. I think, definitely, there is a place for both: manager and leader. And sometimes, the leader must also be the manager. So I agree with Ken.

When I was a school principal, I was frustrated by the fact that I was expected to "lead" within the framework of the bureaucracy: collective bargaining agreements, state administrative code, school board regulations, tenure laws, etc. So sometimes, good leaders' hands are tied.

And sometimes leaders whose styles encompass collaboration, positive reinforcement and modeling the skills they want to see in their employees can be viewed as weak. Now that I own my own business, I can leverage these strengths and see positive results from using them

Interesting discussion here.

DonovanGroupInc
DonovanGroupInc

BFF - in the time I've known you I think you wouldn't be where you are had you adopted these supposed "traits" verbatim. Being able to stand up and say "yoo hoo this isn't for me" has afforded us all some valuable insight. Just because you treat others the way you'd like to be treated doesn't mean you'll be a terrible or less successful manager or leader...just means you will be different and isn't that what is great about a free and open marketplace? Much like we let the market decide whether our product is of value...internally our staff let us all know how we are doing as a manager, leader, mentor, etc. through low turn over and higher productivity. Thanks for giving us all a shot in the arm today...hopefully this wasn't too complimentary. :) Andy

Lyn Lomasi
Lyn Lomasi

Excellent post! I've been told I'm a leader and I really identify with much of what you said.

jeanineblack
jeanineblack

Thanks, Gini. This gave me something to think about as I am in the process of coming up with a career plan to present to my boss in about a month or so. I work for a 70-person accounting firm in Ohio. When I was hired four years ago as a coordinator, my position was new to the organization, as they've never had a marketing/PR specialist on staff. The next step would seem to be to move up to a management position, but with nobody underneath me to "manage" as you put it, I feel I would be more of marketing/PR leader and innovator than a manager.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Leon Leon! My new friend! Very, very sage advice. And yes, you keep reminding me about that fun part.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@TheJackB You were 20 something a thousand years ago!?! What's your secret to the fountain of youth?? This makes me sick to my stomach for you. The whole control thing and not empowering people. Unbelievable!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@feliciahudson Hey! I didn't know you were here, too! YAY! LOL on the "can't afford to do that now, but will" comment. I SO know that feeling! You spend A LOT of time educating yourself and getting better where you're weak...until you can hire the skill set you need.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@EricaAllison I don't do both. When I realized I wasn't good at the managing, I began to hire that skill set. I do hire people who are comfortable with the gray and figuring out how to execute one of my crazy ideas, but I also hire people who are comfortable creating structure. Because, if left to my own devices, I don't even think about it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KensViews P.S. I was going to comment that it's kind of douchey to leave a link to your own work, but I forgot! DANG IT!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KensViews Totally agree that one can be a good manager without being a leader. We had a managing director who was a phenomenal manager, but not a great leader. We made a formidable team because she truly was strong where I was weak and vice versa.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JamesDBurrell2 I don't know that that's necessarily always true about one wielding an entitled sense of power. I always hire managers who can create process and structure so my team CAN follow me. Because that's where I'm very weak. But (with the exception of one) they never have acted entitled.

P.S. It's your turn.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@janbeery But what I have learned is people need process and structure. Where I thrive on the gray and change and constant moving forward, most people need some sort of consistency. That's why I'm a terrible manager. But boy! Can I talk a vision and rally people around getting there with laser-like focus. I just can't get things organized enough to make it structured for everyone.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@nateriggs Unless you own the joint...but yes, the idea is EVENTUALLY you get paid more in the end.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JudyDunn OMG! I would not want to trade places with you for all the money in the world. You just described my worst nightmare: "Collective bargaining agreements, state administrative code, school board regulations, tenure laws, etc." YUCK!

feliciahudson
feliciahudson

@ginidietrich Exactly! Fortunately, there are some good resources and peeps out there to learn from as well. :-)

Aaaaargh, just looked at my post and saw that I wrote penalyzed! No wonder it looked odd to me. LOL! I REALLY can spell! :-)

janbeery
janbeery

This sounds like a Bog title!

JamesDBurrell2
JamesDBurrell2

@ginidietrich A) It is my turn... if you can call it that. Perhaps more like time to time Jamey to the whipping post. (Words With Friends reference to any confused & innocent bystanders).

B) I didn't not mean to insinuate all managers manage from a position of false entitlement. Being mostly self-employed my entire adult (cough, am I really an adult? nah) life, I've only endured a few managers. Most of my experience takes the form of industry associations and community organizations. It such scenarios, it's often painfully evident when a committee leader/manager tries ineffectively to micromanage their subordinates on said committee.

I do, however, recognize the invaluable importance of both the roles of manager and leader. One handles the big picture and inspiration, the other the nitty gritty details and efficient execution.

Some fortunate few can do both.

janbeery
janbeery

@ginidietrich True, people do need process and structure. Where I think a problem can occur is when the focus is too much on processes and structure and the vision gets lost.

I'm sure you're not as terrible as you think you are. We all need accountability to some extent and that includes tapping into your peers for input.

IN the meantime, keep your vision, that's what started your business and will keep it vibrant. Process and structure is an evolution and your's is in motion.

Just a phone call away dear Gini!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich @TheJackB Now there is a difference between Managing and MicroManaging. And ahem....I know you are a Type Double A Gini but many Type A's are micromanagers. But I think from getting to know you that you aren't this way with A-D as much as driven to succeed. Two very different things.

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