Where have all the leaders gone?

I know that there had been a long standing debate on the difference between a manager and a leader, and I don’t dispute that managerial and leadership qualities are mutually exclusive.

Most importantly, in the ideal world, we should have a leader who can manage.

The world is not ideal. So, let’s face it. Will the real leader, please stand up!

I remember a long time ago, when we were kids. Whenever we get together to play, there is always that “someone” who calls the shot. “I get to be this and you’ll have to do that”. No, I’m not referring to playground bullying. I’m referring to leadership qualities in its simplest form.

Where had that gone to?

Today, we put people in leadership positions for various different reasons. In fact, various wrong reasons. For one, seniority is the biggest culprit. Next on the list would be the person’s performance in his current role.

When can we get this right? The role of a leader is…

“To lead”

Does he have to be the oldest serving employee in the department? No.
Does he have to have the best sales performance in the team? It would be good to have, but still “No”.
Does he have to be the best marketing genius or the shrewdest accountant? That’ll be nice, but still “No”.

So, who is this person that can lead us?

He needs to be someone who understands the business, the environment, the industry, its competition, the trends and everything from where the revenue will come from to where the expenses are going to.

He has to be a strong business person with a shrewd acumen for business. He has to see change before others. He must have the guts to go where no one has been before, to take the uncharted route. To be a pace setter.

In all that, we have someone who’ll stand in from of all others, points in a single direction, and tell the rest, “That’s where we are going”.

In that, he must be able to pull the people around him to march towards that direction with one heart.

And very importantly, listen to its people and command their respect.

That is a leader.

What about managing the resources? The logistics, costs of operations and many other little little details of getting there?

That’s what the managers are for! Right?

By the way, isn’t the leader supposed to rally those people around him as well.

Let’s start to put the right people on the right job.

Eric Wong

When “a dollar there” is no different from “a dollar here”

I am not addressing the economic crisis, nor am I trying to define the value of a dollar.

A few years ago, as an in-house HR business partner, I was conducting an exit interview with a line technician (Let’s call him Simon). I’ve known Simon for about a year or so, and we’ve had lunch on several occasions.

In that interview, Simon was very truthful and straightforward in his answers and I was somewhat brought back to reality on the importance of a good manager and a warm friendly environment.

Simon brings home about a thousand dollars every month. Considering that he’s had a new born baby, I know that he’s been putting in extra overtime hours whenever possible. He is a smart and diligent individual and was given extra responsibilities in his area of work.

However, I knew that he wasn’t getting along well with his department head (Let’s call him John). Not that he’s having any direct confrontation with John or anything. It’s just the environment that was created by John. He practically micromanages every single detail.

John is not an easy going person as well. At times, talking to him can be rather intimidating. Simon doesn’t report to him directly. In fact, there are two other persons in between Simon and John. An engineer that Simon reports to, and a manager that the engineer reports to.

In the exit interview, Simon shared with me his plans. The company that he’s going to is much smaller in size and the salary’s about 20% lower. The overtime may be good, but it’s due to the fact that they’re running a sweatshop. On the whole, Simon will be putting more hours for pretty much the same pay.

How does all this equate to a better opportunity? I am not convinced by the fact that he’s taking a pay cut to join a smaller company and he’s feeling good about it.

He refers to his career move to being released from prison, saying that “a dollar earned there” is the same as “a dollar earned here. I put in the hours and I get my pay at the end of the month. The difference? I don’t have to put up with all this!”

I was sad to see him go. The last I checked, he’s still at that smaller company. He’s a much happier person now. He’s gotten his promotion and had been rewarded with a slightly better package.

I guess we all know that the environment is important, and most people quit on their managers and such. But it will be a while more before we can put all this knowledge into practice. There is no silver bullet to creating a superb working environment, but what I do know is – “A happy employee is a productive employee”.


Eric Wong