Leaders and Going Viral

I have noticed, throughout my career, that there are different qualities for leaders and managers. At the extreme, good leaders are lousy managers and good managers are lousy leaders. In rare instances I have worked for someone who was both, but this is rare.

It’s almost like there’s a sliding scale between being a leader and a manager and most people in charge end up somewhere between the two.

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An organization needs both. If there is more than one leader, they’d better be leading in the same direction!

Characteristics of a Great Leader:

  • Has a clear vision of where he wants to go
  • Drives towards that goal, hell or high water
  • Does not believe in “My way or the highway,” instead is simply convinced of, “My way” and inspires others with his vision
  • Conveys his passion for the goal to others
  • “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
  • Has great gut instinct of what the target market will buy
  • Disdains market research. As Henry Ford said, “If I asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”
  • Being a genius doesn’t hurt

Characteristics of a Great Manager

  • Believes strongly in team consensus
  • Works to get everyone on board, everyone in agreement with the goal
  • Gets 100% Buy-In towards the goal
  • Gets each team member to contribute his maximum potential
  • Makes sure that the market is ready for the product being planned and produced
  • Listens carefully to the opinions of others and reconciles differences before proceeding
  • Cares deeply about his team and does his best to make their job easier so that they’re more productive
  • Pays attention to market research and works hard to make sure his product hits the targets defined by market research

When you look at the list, there’s no disagreeing that every characteristic has merit. Doing every one of them is a great idea. But there is a dividing line between the two, sometimes fuzzy but very observable. Great leaders lead. Great managers manage.

Great leaders are not oppressive, although they are often demanding. They want perfection! And they want it now.

Great football coaches often fit the mold of a great leader. They sure as heck don’t ask the players, “Let’s do three hours of punishing exercise, drills and practice. OK?” They say, “Here’s the schedule. Get with it. Go!” Whether they’re considered a tyrant, a despot or a hero is how they lead, how they inspire the people who work for them.

In some cases, leader-types know what they want but do not clearly communicate their vision to others, nor inspire the team to achieve greatness. This detracts from their leadership qualities and if severe moves them into the category of “lousy leader.”

In an organization, you need great managers. You need those who can pull a group of people together and build them into a team. Give them a voice, let them participate and be part of the team. A great manager achieves consensus, he gets everyone working together towards a common goal, a common direction.

I have never heard anyone say that George Patton or Winston Churchill were good managers. I have read countless stories about how they were great leaders. Underneath them there were good managers who executed the direction given, charged with achieving the goal or vision laid down by the Big Boss.

If you want to achieve success with a software company, you need a leader. Someone who knows the market intimately, who knows what product will succeed and can and will inspire and drive a team to achieve the impossible. Underneath the leader, you need good managers to “herd all the cats” together and pull in the same direction.

To go viral, you’ve got to have a great product, you’ve got to have great PR and Marketing, you’ve got to have great Tech Support. Behind that you’ve got to have a great leader who knows where the company needs to go and what it takes to get there and will push without reservation in that direction.



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