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  • Writer's pictureAlec Pringle

Management vs. Leadership

Updated: Feb 17, 2018

Relating this distinction to aviation, a leader is one who says, “I want to fly.” They are visionaries setting the intent of the organization, working tirelessly to ensure the credibility and feasibility of their intent and making sure that people believe in that vision.

Acting on behalf of the leader to accomplish the vision, a manager is the person who hires Daniel Bernoulli (the guy who figured out that air acts like a fluid and that the shape of an airfoil/wing can create differential pressure, creating the lift necessary to fly), the Wright brothers (the guys who were crazy enough to try to build and test a bunch of those airfoils that could be lifted into flight), and Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir (the guy who invented the internal combustion engine), and says, “Have at it, boys.”

The manager makes sure that Bernoulli has verified his calculations, that the Wright brothers have the resources necessary to manufacture, and that Lenoir understands that he cannot strap a 5,000-pound hunk of metal to wood and fabric. The manager balances the limitations and resources of the team and ensures that each member is communicating and performing accordingly. The manager talks to Lenoir when he is pissed off at the Wright brothers for not using aluminum structural components. The manager listens to Bernoulli when he says lift is dependent on density of the air and that performance will be radically altered by altitude, air temperature, moisture content and all the funny variables affecting fluid mechanics and the ideal gas law. The manager reminds Bernoulli that he is the only one who understands those big words and that he needs to communicate with the factory floor. The manager talks the Wright brothers away from the sand dune when winds are gusting to 20 knots, knowing tomorrow will be a better day. In the end, the manager delivers progress and final reports of success or failure back to the leader, providing relevant detail as necessary.

If that distinction leads you to believe you would rather be a leader than a manager, that is great, but then this book is not for you. Having said that, I would encourage you to set aside your aspirations solely for leadership for a few hours and read this book anyway. Doing so will reinforce how important the support of management is to leadership. Upon completion, whether you aspire to be a leader, a manager, or both, you will look back and see this effort as your first flight lesson on the way to one day successfully handling the yoke and throttle of your company (… and, of course, an effort towards avoiding any crashes along the way).

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