Today’s most successful businesses aggressively rely on definite plans and decisions, not passive actions, to limit tenacious disruption and actively shape their forward paths with a focus on leadership as a primary strategic underpinning.

The word “leader” symbolizes a person who commands authority or influence and is a take-charge type of charismatic individual. A skilled leader, in contrast to a manager, develops a shared vision, sets strategic directions and priorities, articulates real values, and inspires others for business and their success. Leaders that command respect among their followers, customarily demonstrate empathy and support, and have a genuine interest in helping the careers and welfare of their employees. 

Leadership is acknowledged to have nothing to do with an organizational title, hierarchy level, or the ability to wield power. Titles are subjective and have different implied and tacit meanings in the workplace. Too many people have a misconception that a company’s executive team members should also have a leader title.

There are both leaders and business managers in the workplace. While some leaders have the title of managers, and some managers are true leaders, generally, leaders and managers have dissimilar personality traits, behaviors, and skills that drive their motivations and actions.

Businesses generally endorse and promote their most skilled employees to the manager level, those who exhibit exceptional domain knowledge, management skills, and exemplify some qualities of leadership. However, many of these employees lack the leadership skills and experiences to immediately move up and successfully accept a manager’s role and engage their workforce as a leader.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
John Quincy Adams

The good news is that leadership skills are acquirable with the availability of professional classroom, online, and other learning experiences. Rising to the top of the corporate ladder is a goal for many employees, but it can be only a reality for managers who continually develop their leadership qualities, and hone their organizational abilities.

Managers and Leaders: Differences

The key difference between leaders and managers is that people follow leaders, whereas managers have people work for them. Historically we have been taught that management was the more clearly defined role and skillset, focused on overseeing the work activities and associated processes.  

Successful managers characteristically do not have large spheres of organizational influence, but they can be masterful at supervising projects and completing assigned deliverables to agreed requirements on time and budget.

Mangers know how to plan, organize, and coordinate work activities effectively. When an organization has a complex or compound project to undertake, an experienced manager is the best choice. A great leader is generally influential and inspires new ideas but may not be skillful at managing the many ongoing details involved with driving a project to a successful closure. 

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”
Colin Powell

Traditionally, managers were promoted and learned how to manage with their immediate manager’s coaching capabilities. In many ways, this was appropriate for the skills and competencies required to succeed in the past days. With increased technology and process complexity, managers, as leaders, need to be able to influence, inspire, motivate, and create a clear and compelling vision for the worker’s and organization’s success.

The key differences for managers and leaders include the below:

“Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”
Sam Walton

Leadership Qualities

Managers recognized as true leaders who embody an array of vital leadership qualities that promote the development of a fair, balanced, and friendly work environment, including:

  • Commitment
  • Confidence
  • Creativity
  • Decisiveness
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Listening
  • Optimism
  • Responsibility
  • Trust

Leadership Styles

The leadership styles shown below are used to support different types of organizations and cultures and adapted for specific workplace situations.


The leadership style wherein one manager has overall authority and control over decision-making and the efforts of subordinates under direct scrutiny.


The leadership style follows strict adherence to formal organizational policies, rules, and regulations.


The leadership style draws from the leader’s personality and magnetism to positively influence followers to achieve common goals.


The leadership style wherein employees take a more participative and proactive role in the decision-making process.


The leadership style where leaders are more hands-off, allowing members of a group to work together, and to make decisions free from their leaders’ constant influence and direction.


The leadership style in which the primary goal of the leader is to serve. This style is different from traditional leadership, where the leader’s focus is the thriving of their company or organizations.


The leadership style refers to when the leader’s flexibility to adjust to the actual situation. In Situational Leadership, the leader’s style may change regularly to meet the challenges and demands of internal and external events.

The types of Situational Leadership include:

  • Delegating
  • Participating and Supporting
  • Selling and Coaching
  • Telling and Directing


The leadership style that involves motivating and directing followers by appealing to their self-interest. Transactional power is rooted in their formal authority and responsibility in the organization.


The leadership style is the focus on a person’s ethics, emotions and behaviors, values, and long-term goals for purposes of change or transformation.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”.
Peter Drucker

Leadership Values and Benefits

Leadership is the most powerful and critical element of a successful business. Effective leaders with the necessary tools and skills to inspire and impact their followers, allow organizations to operate successfully in positive and negative economies, and market disruptions. The benefits of a cadre of superior leaders provide a wide array of values and interests that drive improved:

  • Ability to succeed under pressure.
  • Change enabler.
  • Conflict resolution.
  • Cultivate future leaders.
  • Decision-making.
  • Dependable and competent workforce.
  • Emotional intelligence.
  • Employee motivation and engagement.
  • Employee retention.
  • Financial results.
  • Innovation and creativeness.
  • Listening and communication skills.
  • Productivity.

Anecdotal experiences support that about 80% of workplace problems are people-related. In this regard, good leadership benefits the organization as a whole in establishing and maintaining an issue and risk-free environment. 

Transformational Leadership

Leadership expert James McGregor Burns created the notion of transformational leadership in his 1978 book, Leadership, in which he described this style as a process by which “leaders and followers make each other advance to a higher level of morality and motivation. Bernard Bass, leadership guru, expanded on this description in his book, Transformational Leadership, describing transformational leaders as:

“those who stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their leadership capacity.”

The key characteristics  of transformational leadership cover:

  • Intellectual stimulation – challenges followers to be innovative and creative.
  • Individualized consideration – demonstrates genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers.
  • Inspirational motivation – inspire and motivate followers.
  • Idealized influencer – serves as a role model for followers and truly “walks the talk.”

Millennials in the Workplace

Millennials representing about 81 million are projected to be 1 of 3 adults in the U.S. by 2020. This generational group comprises people born from 1981 to 1996 after Generation X and before Generation Z.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials currently represent about 35% of the U.S. workforce, making them the largest group in the U.S. labor force. Further, this group is estimated to be about 75% of the workforce by 2025.

While Millennials are motivated to work, their expectations are different from past generations resulting in some employers struggling to adapt. Also, a much different technological and cultural landscape has shaped some unique characteristics in workplace governance and activities.

The Millennial manager’s penchant for teamwork, constant communication, and social responsibility is reshaping how businesses operate today and the long term. These views challenge the current thinking of the Baby Boomers and Gen X and will accelerate as the new cadre of managers are promoted, and changes become more widely acceptable to support innovative Millennial-inspired management and leadership approaches.

We are now seeing the rapid advancement of Millennials into crucial business leadership roles. A key challenge will be how to leverage and cultivate the Millennials’ traits and qualities, predisposition to digital technology and social media use, and professional competencies while simultaneously developing the necessary leadership skills to support future years of product innovation and market sustainability.

Entrepreneur identified the ten Millennial leadership qualities that contribute to a positive office culture as outlined below. 
  1. Tech-savvy.
  2. Hunger for success.
  3. Innovative.
  4. Nimble.
  5. Continually seek inspiration.
  6. Mission-driven.
  7. Challenge the hierarchy.
  8. Great collaborators.
  9. Value transparency.
  10. Value having fun.

The trends associated with the elevation of Millennials to critical senior and executive management positions and influential organizational leadership roles highlight the differences between Baby Boomers and Gen X. For example, Millennials:

  • Embrace a flat organizational reporting structure.
  • Encourage employee empoerment at all levels. 
  • Place a high value on managers who encourage continual collaboration and feedback.
  • Challenge policy and decision-making viewed as illogical and lacked quantifiable value creation. 
  • Support a work-life balance with job flexibility. 

These trends suggest that today’s executives need to strategically rethink their cultural mix, organizational infrastructure design, supporting policies, business processing, supply chain, and governance framework within a filter of the preferred needs of their Millennials and Generation Z employees.

Gallup’s 3 Leadership Rules That Separate the Good From the Best include:
  1. Treat your workplace culture like a powerful, competitive differentiator.
  2. Don’t simply measure employee engagement; create a culture of high performance by focusing on development.
  3. Become a data-driven decision-maker.

The Leadership Crisis 

It is a fact that 86 % of 1955 Fortune 500 companies no longer exist. It is also alarming that a projected 40 % of current Fortune 500 businesses potentially face extinction in about ten years. Why are once prominent and successful companies failing? Is failure concerned with the selection or execution of a business strategy or a combination of questionable strategic decisions and a leadership gap?

Current workplace cynicism and generational social behaviors highlight the need for business leaders to revisit how to exercise leadership and engage their followers. Long-established leadership approaches are meeting resistance, and rethinking is a strategic necessity.

A CEO World Magazine article highlights the leadership crisis.

  • 81% of CEOs rate leadership development programs as less than highly effective. PwC 2015, Annual Global CEO Survey
  •  86% of 2,200 global HR leaders believe their organization’s future depends on the effectiveness of their leadership pipelines, but only 13% are confident in their succession plans, with 54% reporting damage to their businesses due to talent shortages. Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends: Leading in the New World of Work
  • 6% of executives feel ‘very ready’ to meet their leadership needs in 2016. Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends. The new organization
  • 7% of organizations believe they have a Best in Class leadership development program. Harvard Business School Publishing. 2016, State of Leadership Development Survey
Forbes reports:
“Company leaders are facing a crisis. Nearly one-third of employees don’t trust management. In addition to this, employers now have to cater to the needs of the millennial generation. On average, after graduating from college, a millennial will change jobs four times before they are 32. Most of them also don’t feel empowered on their current jobs.”

Emerging Mangers with Leadership Potential

Best-in-Class enterprises appreciate that long-term success requires a pipeline of emerging senior and executive managers with leadership abilities, who can help secure a prosperous future for the business and employee population. Companies are setting up formal leadership development programs to respond to this strategic requirement. Key program goals include:

  • Create selection and measurement criteria.
  • Identify potential emerging managers.
  • Develop selected managers’ leadership skills and thinking process to prepare for the change from managing self to managing others.

The leadership development program improves the emerging managers’ professional capabilities with training and learning experiences focused on:

  • Leadership traits and qualities.
  • Decision-making.
  • Business model.
  • Strategy initiatives.
  • Governance structure.

Nowadays, there is a visible technology impact on leadership program development with the capability to quickly personalize, thus, enabling participants to select from on-demand resources and preferences geared toward their learning style, pace, interests, and goals.

With comprehensive business knowledge, a global perspective, and highly-tuned management insights, the emerging managers will be ready to accept a senior manager role with leadership responsibilities.

“The most valuable “currency” of any organization is the initiative and creativity of its members. Every leader has the solemn moral responsibility to develop these to the maximum in all his people. This is the leader’s highest priority.”
W. Edwards Deming

The Way Forward

Knowledge Compass consultants successfully help clients plan, develop, and conduct personalized leadership training and development workshop and learning experiences

Knowledge Compass provides consulting services with the use of an array of Frameworks, Analyses Tools, and Interactions from their Best Practices Consultant Toolbox.