Are you a pleaser or a teaser?..or put in other words: Are you a Leader or a Manager?

This article is for you, who might have doubts about whether you are the one or the other or if you believe that there is no difference.

As there seem to have been a significant inflation in the use of the title “leader” I think it is about time we discuss what it takes being a leader opposed to being a manager. At the business schools where I am teaching I run a course called “Leadership across Cultures” and in the first class in the semester I always ask my students how many of them who want to become leaders. Not surprisingly everyone raise their hands. It is cool being a leader these days.

The Leaders

When we start looking at our heroes – the men and women we see as leaders we begin to see a glimpse of what it takes being a leader. Leading means taking risks, break the norms, rules and sometimes the laws in order to pursue what you really believe in. We follow people who genuinely believe in something and who are willing to make huge sacrifices to fulfill their mission. They tease us because we tend to admire them and holding them in contempt at the same time. We hold them in contempt because they have the courage to pursue a new path and by doing so they step outside the norms of their existing group culture. Leaders are focused on their mission – not the formal status of being a leader. Leaders are elected by their followers, who admire them.

The number of students who want to become leaders usually decline over the semester when the realize what it takes becoming a leader and there are plenty of reasons for not pursuing this career path. It is high-risk. Usually very bad paid – unless you succeed of course. You might find yourself excluded from your group and primary culture.

The Managers

Becoming a manager is much easier and much more comfortable. As a manager you don’t need followers as you are appointed by your superiors to manage a group of people. It is low risk as your job is well-defined and you don’t have to put your own credibility on the line. It is just a job. As a manager you are supposed to reinforce rules and norms so you will never find yourself excluded from your group as long as you do what you are told to do. You even get a good salary. Managers are pleasers. They instinctively know that they only have their position as long as the current system remains. As soon as the systems change their position is in danger. So they will please their superiors – at least as long as they believe that their superiors can guarantee them the monthly paycheck.

The revolution

In Gugin we facilitate integration of organisations after mergers or acquisitions. In most of these cases a lot of managers find themselves in a position where they don’t feel they can rely on their superiors ability to guarantee the paycheck in the future. They – the middle managers – feel let down by the system. The feeling is understandable, it is however to crucially important to tackle it correctly and in time in order to avoid the disasters. But that requires leadership and that is sometimes difficult to find in organisations where management and not leadership has been the dominant behavior.

Back to my students

For the exam this semester I gave my students the assignment to write about which rules and norms they would be willing to break in order to become leaders. They are qualified to write about that because I have taught them about leadership for 4 months, we have exercised it, I have provoked them, teased them and hopefully enlightened and encouraged them to try to make a difference. Their exam papers were a pleasure to read and I will reveal some of their conclusions in another article.

Who are you?

Well you know best who you are, but it is important to state that we need both managers and leaders. With only managers there would be no innovation and progress and no paradigm shifts. With only leaders there would be 1 billions great ideas and we would all die from starvation. The relationship between the managers and the leaders is a great example of how we benefit from cultural diversity and cultural reconciliation.

If you are teased, I suggest you sign up for our newsletter and take a look at our training programs for global leaders


Yours sincerely

Dr. Finn Majlergaard
Managing Partner, Gugin


I just say things as they are…

I just say things as they are…

"I just say things as they are" is a phrase you might hear quite often. Maybe even without paying attention to it. If you - as we do in Gugin work with leadership development, conflict reconciliation and cultural identities you DO pay attention to phrases like that....

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