On Abundance and Deficiency: Leaders and Managers

What is the difference between a leader and a manager? This question is what originally got me thinking about abundance and deficiency because there seems to be more managers and less leaders.

Leaders Make Known the Unknown

A leader is someone that influences the behavior of others by the way they live their lives. They have vision for what they would like the world to look like, and they move towards the fulfillment of that vision, guiding others to what could be. A leader can inspire with words, and that is a necessity in order to communicate that which could be, but as the adage goes, “actions speak louder than words.” A leader must act, moving towards a specific vision, thus creating a mission for others to devote their lives to.

I didn’t grow up in the 60s, but leaders seemed to be everywhere. As I think about the influence leaders have on every day people, I hear the immortal words of president John F. Kennedy resonate in my mind:

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shank from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, January 20th, 1961

Managers Keep the Machine Running

Every leader needs a team of managers, people that keep the machine running. They supervise groups of people, direct others towards a specific outcome, and they exercise control in order to ensure that everything is done correctly. But the reality is that every manager needs a visionary leader to guide and direct them towards the creation of a “better” machine.

Managers can be very resourceful and creative in the implementation of someone else’s vision, but where they fail is in their inability to break from the patterns of execution and the exercising of control over other people’s actions. They fail to see the need for a better machine. They become satisfied with perpetuating what is, and not what could be.

That is the primary distinction between a leader and a manager: Leaders are not afraid to fail, managers are petrified to fail.

Can Managers Become Leaders? How About the Rest of Us?

I strongly believe that in order for managers to shed control and become visionary leaders, they must be willing to be mentored and shaped by other visionary leaders. In addition, they must embrace risk, give up the need to control the response and actions of others, and move towards the vision of a better future.

How about the rest of us that aren’t managers? How do we become leaders? Should we forgo being a manager and learn how to communicate and act with purpose and intent, pursuing visionary leadership?

The answer is a resounding yes. Pursuing visionary leadership means that you:

  1. Identify your passion.
  2. See a need in the community that can be fulfilled by your passion.
  3. Begin to act towards the fulfillment of your vision by creating a mission that can be shared with others.
  4. Share with others. Get them on board with the vision that you have.
  5. Never settle until your vision is fulfilled.

Local Leadership, Please Stand Up!

I see a need for more leaders throughout the Vancouver, WA community. I feel that the older generation of citizens are ignoring the passion and desire for change found in the younger generation. Perhaps they have gotten comfortable or have forgotten what it means to aspire for great things. There is an amazing source of knowledge and wisdom found in the older generations that the youth need in order to not only ground them in reality, but also help them to aspire towards visionary leadership.

There are organizations like Rotary and Leadership Clark County that connect young leaders with community moguls, but the high cost of entry prevents a lot of younger aspiring leaders from joining the pursuit of leadership. I’m waiting for a visionary┬áleader to realize that leadership can and must be taught in person, to as many people as possible, regardless of cost. The future of the community, the state, the nation and the world depend on the younger generations.

I just hope it’s not too late.

I end with a quote from Bill Moyers’ book, Moyers on Democracy: “The Talmud tells us that in every age there comes a time when leadership comes forth to meet the needs of the hour. And so, there is no man who does not find his time, and there is no hour that does not have its leader.

This is our time to step forward and meet the needs of the hour.

Are you ready?