Am I a Leader or a Manager?

A leader introduces vision, change, new ideas, motivation to act, and others choose to follow them. They open and expand the system they are within and increases the flow of energy and life. Leadership requires spontaneity and creativity and is oriented towards love, the fuel for authentic power.

A manager provides containment, tidiness, ensuring the establishment of and conformance to cultural and organisational conserves through process and policy, with efficiencies arising from oft repeated and improved activities. These have the effect of closing the system, regulating the flow of energy and at best, maintaining the status quo and is oriented toward fear. Sometimes the manager may utilise shame, criticism and micromanage your every thought and action. There is never a good reason for that excessive and inappropriate control, and those behaviours are thoroughly fear-based.

In business, both have their place. It is important to know which is needed in a given situation and to not confuse the two. For example, a major cost cutting, people culling process is largely a management action, though successfully bringing the organisation through and out of such an endeavour requires sound leadership.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948)
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948)

The orientation toward love or fear can also be used to assess whether the outcomes achieved were the result of leadership or management, or something else. For example, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) inspired a nation and expanded the system the Indian nation was under, ultimately bringing freedom through “nonviolence” from British rule. Mother Teresa (26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997) created change in the world one person at a time.

Adolf Hitler is an interesting one. Was he a leader or something else? Certainly he had an amazing capacity to motivate and move the populous and create change. He had a great ability to put actions into motion and marshal people to create the outcomes he sought. Was it leadership or the actions of a strategic manager. Certainly much of his personal motivation and style involved fear, and he built his Third Reich on the people afraid of an alternative.

Similar principles apply to how you work with yourself. Your internal manager tends to work from a place of fear and directedness, and as a result you may find yourself anxious and experiencing contraction, holding on to what is familiar. Your leader within works from a place of love and trust, is open and spontaneous, and you are then able to remain available to opportunities and retain the capacity to create something positive and new. The manager works more in a reactive fashion; the leader with a greater vision of your long-term future. Both do have their place. Have you learned how to balance the two?

Ripples From Authenticity

Rodriquez Signing autographs in 2007
Rodriquez Signing autographs in 2007

I love inspirational stories of people who triumph over the odds, who defy the norm, and come up trumps against significant challenges, who in the process have manifest extraordinary inner strength. I have just come across another hero, and in this case the amazing feat was his authenticity. The movie ‘Searching for Sugar Man‘ won an academy award in 2012, but I have only just seen it, and found myself deeply moved.

In the 1970’s Rodriguez wrote and performed two albums that were phenomenal flops in the USA, ‘Cold Fact’ and ‘Coming from Reality’. Practically no one knew he existed. Yet, unbeknownst to him, copies of his music were circulating and inspiring a generation of people within South Africa. His earthy words and messages provoked recognition that the norm does not have to be accepted, particularly the political establishment, and his work inspired musicians during the rise against apartheid in their expression. My wife grew up in South Africa in the period and was well aware of this man and encouraged me to the movie.

Rodriguez came and went without being noticed within the USA, and carried on with his labouring near poverty while his name and music was stirring a nation. In South Africa it was believed he had committed suicide, with several grizzly stories circulating. Rodriguez was eventually discovered alive and well by South African fans seeking to learn more of their star. He subsequently performed a number of concerts to sell-out crowds of thousands, and did so with a modesty and groundedness that belied the newness of such adoration to him.

For me, the fantastic lesson and inspiration is how Rodriguez lived and played his music with authenticity, true to who he was, both in writing and singing, and also in failing as he continued with his labouring career, and even later attempted running for political office. His motivation was he wanted to make a difference. His authenticity touched millions, went so very far beyond anything he knew existed, and it was only luck or serendipity that he learned he was a fabulous hit for a people he had no reason to know, millions of them. And in finding out, he was comfortably the same, as unchanged as any person could be with sudden fame, and my admiration increased as a result. Rodriquez is a reminder that when we align with our purpose and live it, we can have a fantastic impact on lives around is, and may never know it. Sometimes we may be blessed with a glimpse of what we have created with our life.

Are you living your purpose? Are you true to who you are regardless feedback? Do you love and accept yourself and know your worth, even if the world has not caught on to support your belief? Are you living with authenticity to who you are even if there is no evidence that it serves any greater purpose?