Traditionally, leaders who launch organizations in our movement end up managing them. Yet, leaders and managers are very different people? What can be done to improve our movement’s leadership and management skills?
Leading vs. Managing
Contrary to popular opinion, leaders and managers are different people built of different stock. The key traits of leaders and managers are direct opposites:
- Leaders are born and rare – managers are trained and more common
- Leaders are loners – managers are social people
- Leaders are less sensitive to the opinion of others – managers are very sensitive
- Leaders are focused on themselves – managers are focused on the staff
- Leaders are focused on their ideas – managers are focused on making these work
- Leaders are intolerant of mediocre performers – managers improve performance
- Leaders are less focused on budgets and timelines – managers are very focused
- Leaders are willing to take risks – managers prefer to play it safe
Of course, most leaders and managers won’t fit every one of these traits, but the general pattern applies. Leading and managing are highly complementary roles that ideally belong in every organization.
Historically, some leaders have merely introduced new concepts that catch on and never pretend to manage the movement they have spawned. Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King readily come to mind.
Leaders who launch an actual organization, find that they must assume at least temporary management responsibilities, while developing an adequate management team. Some never let go in what we call “the founder’s syndrome.” Conversely, in the absence of a natural leader, some top managers in an organization may assume a dual role.
Qualities of Leadership
Effective leaders observe and wonder about the world around them. They question why certain things are, while others are not. They delight in challenging common assumptions about human behavior and in exploring alternatives. Effective leaders are passionate about their cause as a solution to world problems. They may simplify their lifestyle, with regard to relationships and material needs, to allow more time for their work. They tend to work alone, but don’t get lonely despite their limited social contacts.
Many effective leaders have reached the level of self-actualization on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (for those of you who still remember the concept from Psych 101). That means that they have high self-esteem, have dropped most of the fears and stories we all grow up with, and are not easily swayed by adversities. They are less sensitive to the opinion of others and therefore better equipped to handle personal attacks.
Because of these personal qualities, effective leaders are more willing to take calculated risks and to live with the possibility of failure and the ensuing backlash. Taking calculated risk is absolutely essential to all human progress. Just consider where our country would be today had our leaders been unwilling to proceed with the extremely risky Emancipation Proclamation, Normandy Invasion, and Cuban Missile Crisis.
Finally, because they are more focused on ideas than on people, some leaders are less attentive to personal virtues. Some of our movement’s early leaders smoked, drank to excess, and even ate animal flesh. Nearly all were womanizers, as part of their 1980s culture.
Qualities of Management
Effective program managers have two key roles:
- To structure the assigned program and its individual objectives, with detailed timelines and adequate personnel, financial, and other resources
- To make sure that the program progresses in compliance with the plan
This requires being good with people:
- Earning the trust, respect, and loyalty of the program team
- Assuming the best about each team member and making them live up to it
- Keeping members informed of their respective roles and responsibilities in the program
- Resolving conflicts within the team
- Empowering team members to assume greater responsibilities
- Being aware and helpful with every team member’s personal situation
It also requires being good with numbers – measuring progress and staying on budget.
And, it requires knowing how to “get things done” (which we covered in the last essay).
How Are We Doing?
Ours is the youngest and least experienced movement on the American social scene. For the first thirty years, we had to promote our vegan and animal rights messages with a few underpaid staffers and many local volunteers.
When the big donor funds came in about ten years ago, we simply raised staff salaries, then hired all our volunteers. We insisted that our managers come up through our volunteer ranks and failed to bring in experts from outside our movement. At the same time, a number of our leaders and managers retired from our movement, frequently under personal attack from others.
All this has greatly diminished our ability to create and implement new
One solution is to be kinder to our leaders and managers. Another is to provide additional management training. A third is to hire experienced managers who agree with our vegan vision from outside our movement.
(Our next essay will address the publications and events that
have brought our movement together through the years.)
The views expressed here are of the author and do not necessarily
represent the views of the Farm Animal Rights Movement