Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Can you manage to be a leader?

with 2 comments

Happy05You walk into the office on Monday. You know that there’s a project due soon so you check in with key employees that have been assigned parts to find out their status and expected delivery time. You meet with other employees that you need to join the process and give them the appropriate materials and guidelines so they can start. You then head to your desk to provide a status report to your supervisor. Then it’s time to dive into your inbox and coffee while thinking how well the day has started.

Leadership or management? You might think this is an easy one, but in reality, I haven’t given you enough information to make a determination.

Leadership and management are status-independent activities. Certainly you manage down to your employees, but you can also manage up (ever have a boss that needs you more than you need him?) and even manage sideways. I’ve known many first rung employees that have demonstrated tremendous natural leadership.

Leadership comes from your actions and interactions. Leadership comes from within and is projected outward. Leadership is the ideal building block from which to build management skills that will create an environment of success.

So back to the original example. We know that our hero is managing people and a process. But was he leading?

To the first group, he took the time to understand the challenges they faced and listened to what they would need to continue forward. He worked with them to develop a feasible plan to enable them to be successful. To the second group, he shared the vision of what the project was about and what they hoped to accomplish. He invited feedback and insights into how the new group could add to the team. And he didn’t leave until they knew how they could get support from him if they needed it before the next check in.

Communication, actions, and attitude all contribute to your position as a leader.

It’s not about being soft and easily manipulated. It’s not about never making a mistake either. It’s about trying to do the best by the team at all times. It’s about having people want to follow you.

Following is always a voluntary activity. There is no such thing as a leader with no followers.

Written by Jeff York

June 28, 2009 at 12:09 am

2 Responses

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  1. Great piece Jeff. I agree completely. In fact, this morning during my commute I just started reading a book that made the same exact point — Tribes by Seth Godin. I think many more organizations would be successful if they understood this. I’ve been around too many organizations that lack real leadership and when the right leadership does come along it’s a real breadth of fresh air and amazing how progress can then happen. Not everyone has what it takes to be that type of leader — more of us are well suited for managing — but in the book I mentioned he argues that more of us can lead these days, especially with the online tools available to build a following. Like I said, I’ve only just started the book but I’m eager to finish it (it’s a quick read too). It seems like the both of you are on to something that needs to be better known in the business community.


    June 29, 2009 at 9:53 am

  2. Update: Roy H. Williams, who puts out an exceptional weekly newsletter called Monday Morning Memo, just wrote an excellent entry on this topic. To read it, visit

    Jeff York

    August 7, 2009 at 11:15 am

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