Category Archives: Leadership

When to lead and when to manage

You lead people, yourself included. You manage situations.

Nobody worth their salt likes to be “managed”.  Trying to manage people, that is; using threats of punishment, promises of reward, passive aggressive comments, subtle (or not so subtle) hints, and sundry other insincere “techniques” designed to elicit a change in behavior, borders on sociopathic.  It’s disrespectful and condescending.

It will lose you the best people and the ones that put up with it will be with you for the wrong reasons, making high performance unlikely.

The people you want in your team, I call them thinking followers, are motivated by the opportunity of doing meaningful work that they enjoy, with other people they respect, in an environment that invites and fosters their creativity.

Your role as the boss is to inspire and challenge and support them.

Yes, management is required.  Processes, scheduling, logistics, supply lines, and administration all need to be well managed.  And there are “people situations” that need to be handled – interpersonal conflict, irrational behavior, emotional outbursts, even plain old mistakes.  Just remember that people are people, not things.  This post might help.

I can’t stress this enough:  people should not be managed.  Your job is to provide real leadership.

And above all, your people need to be inspired to take the lead themselves.  That will never happen if they suspect they’re being “managed”.

Why independence doesn’t mean being a lone wolf.


Main Squeeze sent me this a few days ago; said it reminded her of me.  You see I don’t enjoy organizational politics at all (who does?) and I’ve never been much good at kow-towing.

I shared it with my friend and business partner, who wondered if “wolves”, being great at “lone”, might then not be good at playing on a team.  At the time I thought that’s maybe where the analogy breaks down, but in hindsight the comparison of a wolf to an independent man or woman is apt. (Doesn’t that always happen – you think of what to say, but way, way too late.)

Being of independent mind does not mean going it alone.  It means thinking for yourself and deciding when its good to work with others.

Working in a team, even one with a leader, doesn’t mean you need to bow, buckle under, or “perform”.  It means you acknowledge that your interests are aligned with the groups’; that cooperating will get you all further; that you’re hunting in a pack, as it were.

The thing is, if you’re the leader of the pack, remember that your goals, (your own, and the organizations’), will be better served if those on your team are “thinking followers“, not performing animals.  Interact with them accordingly and they’ll stay engaged and motivated.  Treat them like monkeys and the better ones will be gone, and those left will not move unless you say so, or promise them a treat.

Whether you lead only your self, or a team of one hundred, your foundational attribute has to be independence.  That is, you need to choose to stay switched on and focused; you must be willing to think, analyze, judge, and make decisions; and you need the courage, confidence and drive to initiate action.

Sometimes you’ll choose to follow the direction set by someone else, or to take advice, or to work collaboratively.  Never should you jump because your fear a whip or want shiny baubles.







Boss versus Leader – not so clear cut.

Boss vs Leader

No attribution. No copyright infringement intended. Let me know if it’s your work.


Intuitively, the picture resonates.  We’ve all had the petty-tyrant boss; the person who loves the sound of their own voice and is oblivious to the resentment and de-motivation they’re engendering.

And most of us can relate to the manager who loves to roll up his sleeves and jump in on the line.

But don’t be fooled.  There’s a problem with the scenario that this image paints, especially when it comes to larger teams with significant division of labour:

You can’t fly at 40,000 feet and be on the tarmac at the same time.

If you as the organizational leader are always “hands-on”, who’s doing your job?  To belabor the cheap analogies; if the captain is always in the engine room, the ship’s going to run aground.


Don’t “lord it” over your team.  Challenge them, but don’t be a slave-driver.  Be nice, respectful, sincere, and above all, just.  But recognize that their job is not yours.  They need to be accountable for their role, just as you need to be accountable for yours.

In a pinch, get in the trenches and dig.  But if you need to do that regularly, you’re not doing your job properly; you’re just a very overpaid member of the team.

When it comes to that bromide about being “Hands On”, here’s the rule to follow:

Be hands-on as much as necessary, but as little as possible.

And over time, given that a part of your job as “boss” is to develop your reports, you should be hands-on less and less.  That will be easier if you master the art of delegation.

*   *   *   *   *

Apologies for all the links, hope they weren’t distracting and that you find some of the material useful.

Questions or comments – feel free.







Self Control. The Holy Grail of Success and Happiness?

Research over the last decade is supporting what should be intuitive:  the ability to control your self is causally linked to success in most aspects of life – academic achievement, career success, good relationships, happiness.

Think of it this way:  if you always did what you should, when you should, and if you could always delay gratification when the short term trade-off would lead to a greater long term benefit, would you be more successful, achieve more, be happier?

Peaked your interest?  I’m doing some research on this and hope to present some distilled and essentialized information and “how to” data in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, here’s a couple resources:

A set of lectures at Audible, by C. Nathan DeWall:

Scientific Secrets for Self Control

Paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

Self-Control Relies on Glucose as a Limited Energy Source:  Willpower is More Than a Metaphor

One hour lecture by Roy Baumeister:

Delivering Happiness

When I get time to read again, one of the first books on my list is “Delivering Happiness”, by Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh.  Also on that list will be several of the books in the presentation below.

Maybe there’s a few here for you too.  I’ve only read some of these, so can’t vouch for them all, but anyone who is as obsessed with team and customer happiness as Tony seems to be, must be at least a better-than-average judge of on-topic reading material.


Nobody cares what you believe.

Never wear your beliefs as a badge of honor.

Calling yourself a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or Zoroastrian does not define you.

Your words and your behavior and your deeds; they define you.

Nobody needs to know what you believe in or don’t.

All we care about is interacting with you justly.  That means courtesy, honesty, and the trading of value for value, whether spiritual or material.

If I or anyone else have nothing you want, ignore us and go about your business. Well do the same for you.

May you live in interesting times – The Joker versus The Thief

Update 8th June, 2015

Maybe read the post below first, take a glance at the other updates, then click the link below.  Ignore the conspirator editorial slant, which may or may not have a basis in truth.  The important thing to know is that when the US Dollar loses it’s place as the world’s “reserve currency”, major change on a geopolitical scale will not be far behind.

Russia Gets Very Serious on De-dollarizing

Update 7th August, 2014

You might like to read the article first, starting below at “Interesting times indeed”.  If you’ve read it already, you’ll know that Putin’s main weapon against the west, albeit a self-destructive one, is to hasten the decline of the US Dollar as the World’s defacto reserve currency.  Looks like he’s drawing his gun.

Russia Sanctions Accelerate Risk to Dollar Dominance

Update 19th June, 2014

The currency war heat’s up.  Given the huge implications, the lack of coverage by the major agencies, (Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, etc.) is noteworthy.

Putin Advisor Proposes “Anti-Dollar Alliance” To Halt US Aggression Abroad

Update:  9th June, 2014

As alluded to below, it now seems Russia is playing its “currency card”, moving to alternatives to the Greenback.  Via The Financial Times, see:

Russian companies prepare to pay for trade in renminbi

*   *   *   *   *

Interesting times indeed.

Watching the dual between Putin and Obama would be instructive (and amusing) if the consequences of the battle were not so dire.  Both are amoral, both are ideologically wrong, and both are tragic second-handers whose self-image is based on what others think.  It’s a fight that can only end in tears all around.

Young Putin V Obama 1.2

No matter who wins, we don’t.

In one corner you have Obama, the protected species; untouchable.  An inexperienced amateur bumbling his way through somehow, glossing the mess over with his silver tongue, and getting a hand-up from mainstream journalists raised on the same liberal-leftist fare, for whom Obama is the flag-bearer.

He’s got a good percentage (perhaps half) of the US electorate behind him, not because they share an ideology (they’re either too stupid or too skeptical to speak of ideology), but because they share in the loot that Obama and his cronies are dishing out.

He’s got Europe on side, though increasingly reluctantly.  They know somehow that he’s a fraud, but he’s only doing now what they’ve been admonishing America to do for decades.  Careful what you wish for – you might get it.

In the other corner is Putin, a professional bureaucrat, raised on subterfuge; a hard-nose bully.

And he is the hardest kind of bully.  Most, when someone finally stands up and slaps them down, shrink in shame and self-pity.  Putin though, is the rarer breed.  He means it and he’s tough.  You could whack him to the point of concussion and he’d still drag himself up and fight on.  The tighter the corner you back him into, the harder he’ll fight.  Worst of all, his small-penis-compensatory machismo endears him to a large majority of his countrymen, most likely because it embodies their own national insecurity; their yearning for the Motherland to be strong and prominent once more.

Third-man in is Europe… well, really Germany, who, as the “economic engine” increasingly dictates EU policy.  They would love to take Putin down; the echoes of 1938 are loud and frighteningly clear.  But, the principled stand required would leave them cold.  Literally.  Russia controls enough of their energy supply to make their winters very uncomfortable and very expensive.  For a generation raised on the pillow of welfare and under the blanket of US security, that kind of hardship is unthinkable.  And throwing principles like national sovereignty, justice, and honor under the bus in the name of “keeping the peace” is easy for a culture so thoroughly steeped in post-modern relativism.  When it’s “your truth” versus “my truth”, apathy, pragmatism and compromise reign supreme.

So how will it play out?

Russia may take Eastern Ukraine, make incursions into the “Stans”, start sniffing at Belarus; but these “geographic plays” are secondary.  The primary weapon Russia holds is financial.  The USD is on the brink of losing it’s status as the world’s reserve counterfeit money currency.  If Putin initiates acceptance of other currencies in payment for oil and gas, that will push the USD into the abyss.  It will be like removing the bottom-most layer in the house-of-cards that is our global monetary system.

My guess is the only reason that hasn’t yet happened, by Russian or any other hand (say, the Chinese), is that the resultant economic crash and societal chaos will make the Great Depression look benign.  Even the worst of bullies are loath to start a fire that is likely to burn them too.

But if Obama et al. continue to up the ante, sooner or later their bluff will be called.  And if they back-off, and “The West” capitulates, letting Russia off the hook this time (sacrificing some of Russia’s near neighbors in the process), the Sword of Damocles that is our massive, debt-driven ponzi-scheme of a monetary system will still be hanging by the thinnest of threads.  It will then be the next “crisis” in the Middle East, China or maybe even the US, that brings it crashing down.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, when the dust has settled, a good deal of your wealth is gone, and we’re resigned to a new era of dark-ages-like toil and hardship for “the masses”, don’t worry about Barry and Vlad.  They’ll no doubt be enjoying a little time-out together on Barry’s Hawaiian estate or Vlad’s Moscovy Dacha, with some of their pals from the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank.

Joker and Thief

A people get the leader they deserve.

Ayn Rand once observed that a people get the leader they deserve.  Personally, I find that in Obama and Putin that rings sadly true – the US has become frivolous, complacent, and image-obsessed; a Joker, while Russia is a force-driven, jingoistic bully with a chip on its shoulder; a thief.