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The Best Managers are Leaders Too

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

“When you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter, and someone is winning. Just remember that.” - Arnold Schwarzenegger

I was flying home several months ago from a management-leadership program I was teaching for a company in Phoenix, and I spoke with the gentleman next to me on the plane. During the conversation, I asked him if he considered his boss a good manager, and he said yes. I then asked him if he thought his boss was a good leader, and after thinking a moment, he said no, he was not.

This man was not alone in the way he thought. According to a marketing information company TSN survey, less than one-third of all supervisors and managers are perceived to be strong leaders. As a result, increasingly more significant percentages of our workforce are disengaged. According to the survey

Forty percent of workers feel disconnected from their employers

Two out of every three workers do not identify with or feel motivated to drive their employer’s business goals and objectives

Twenty-five percent of employees are just showing up to collect a paycheck

There is a tremendous opportunity for managers and supervisors to set themselves and their companies apart from their competition. So, what does it take for a manager to be perceived as a strong leader?

The Five Cs of Leadership


People will not follow someone for long if they cannot trust them. Not long ago, a well-known CEO was ousted after a probe into a personal relationship with a female executive at the same firm. The board concluded that the facts reflected poorly on his judgment and would impair his ability to lead the company. His actions were inconsistent with our code of conduct. Leaders must be trustworthy to produce sustainable results.


The old cliché is true: People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Leaders show they care about their team personally and professionally. When Lou Holtz was coach at Notre Dame, the second question he used to ask every player before being selected to play after Can I trust you? Was, do you CARE about me, your teammates, and Notre Dame? If a player had a selfish motive for being on the team and did not care enough to put the team’s interests first, he did not want that young man on the team. He also said that if the young man did not believe he could trust the coach and feel cared about in return, he should not want to be on the team.


A poster on the gym wall in Clint Eastwood’s movie Pretty Baby Says Winners do what losers will not do. Leaders are like that also. They DO things poor managers will not do. Arguably, one of our most outstanding business leaders was Sam Walton. What was his number one rule for business success? COMMIT to your business. Believe in it more than anybody else. I overcame every single one of my shortcomings through the sheer passion I brought to my work. I do not know if you were born with this kind of passion or if you can learn it. But I do know you need it.


Leaders know where they are going and prove by their words and actions that there is no doubt that they will arrive. Furthermore, they make you want to go with them. They instill confidence in you as well. They get you to believe in yourself and your team and to see yourself as winners before it occurs. In his book Reagan on Leadership, James Struck lists Ronald Reagan’s accomplishments while in office and concludes that Reagan restored America’s beliefs above all.


Leaders have clear, compelling visions and communicate those visions repeatedly. In his book Leadership, the first principle Rudolph Giuliani shares are his insistence on his routine morning meeting. I consider it the cornerstone to efficient functioning within any system. We conducted a great deal during that first hour, mainly because the lines of communication were so clear.

In addition to letting people also know clearly where they stand, leaders are also exceptional listeners. In his book Team Bush Leadership Lessons from the Bush White House, author Donald Kettle discusses how President Bush makes sure he listens to his top advisors. The lesson? Make sure you get unfiltered information. Top managers need all sorts of information, good and bad. Therefore, it is crucial to have a mechanism that ensures a steady stream of data from all quarters.

Managers that develop these qualities will create an environment where their team will willingly do what they would not otherwise d.

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