Management & Leadership Psychobabble

I’m weary of management & leadership psychobabble (e.g., The manager does this, while the leader does that).

While not bullet-proof, two tenets that hold true more often than not in my day-to-day life as a knowledge worker:

  1. Command and Control Management is almost always unnecessary and irrelevant. 
  2. Leadership is often over-rated (see Dancing Guy video in Leaders Yes, Managers No).

Where’s my management & leadership psychobabble?

The Manager asks for the report, but The Leader gets his own damn report.

Leader From Thin Air

He’s a born leader. I don’t buy it.

Leaders come from thin air. Leaders are people infected with an idea who make others jump the chasm of doubt and ridicule.

I’ve had some good ideas, but FAILED to lead them.

Here’s a reflection on progress and movements, and the role of leaders & followers.

Yin and Yang of Leadership

Progress lives or dies on the yin and yang of leader and follower. Today one leads, tomorrow one follows. Leadership is NOT permanent. Leadership is transient. Sometimes one is compelled to be an enthusiastic leader. Sometimes one is inspired to be an enthusiastic follower.

Leaders and followers have the same qualities. Number one is they both can recognize a good idea.

Leaders and followers are essential to progress. Without followers, there’s no movement. Without leaders, there are no ideas.

Leadership Defined

Leadership is the ability to bubble up, and publically champion, ideas that others feel compelled to follow.

Characteristic of a Leader

Leaders seem to be that slightly off-beat person bursting at the seams with enthusiasm about an idea that’s waaaay too good to ignore.

This idea is so good, I can’t seem to get any sleep over it.

Management & Leadership Distinction

Historically, managers control.  Leaders inspire.

Placing Management and Leadership on a Venn diagram, I’m not sure they’ve ever intersected in the communities I have inhabited. 

We are in a period where Command & Control Management is a rapidly metastasizing cancer. The prognosis is good because my notion is that a percentage of the attrition is being backfilled with Facilitators or re-purposed Managers.

The reason so many organizations hire consultants as coaches is that they’re trying to re-purpose the water-logged dead wood of command & control managers into wave-bobbing buoys (facilitators).

Facilitators create non-threatening conditions where a team of people are free to try slightly crazy things without fear.

Contemporary Challenges

  • The speed at which movements go viral
  • The din of new information makes it challenging for leaders to find a forum suitable for engaging others.
  • The realization and acceptance that one will never be a permanent leader.

To Lead a Good Idea

I have FAILED to lead my best ideas. Upon reflection, to lead the next good idea, I want to

  • Understand how ideas and movements “go viral” – then determine how it applies.
  • Be public about the idea knowing that enthusiasm must infect people.
  • Be courteous to naysayers, but not court them.
  • Attract, welcome, engage, and sustain Derek Sivers‘ concept of First Followers.
  • Convince First Followers that they make the idea live or die.
  • Find First Followers who can teach others.
  • Get to the equilibrium of co-ownership ASAP


These ideas are inspired by Derek Sivers‘ 3-minute TED talk Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy.

David Koontz emailed me a leadership philosophy questionnaire with questions like: Do you make a distinction between management and leadership? If so, what is it? David’s series of questions guided me in arranging my thoughts.

To be concise in my critique, Alan Cooper coached me to use the phase Command & Control Management, rather than the blanket term Management.


Leaders Yes, Managers No.

I ignore people writing about, or yapping about leadership because my long-standing bias is that these TAG Body Spray-ed charlatans are fleecing $9.95 from hoofed ruminant suburban TV viewers for a CD full of snoring bromides.

At least with this blog post, you get what you pay for.

I agree with some-time circus clown Derek Sivers when he says

Leadership is over-glorified

I have long confused leadership and management.

I bristle at being managed. I can abide being managed by someone if they are mensa-scale smarter, or more experienced. But in collective modesty, our ability to figure out how to proceed is as Garrison Keillor would say, slightly above average. If all goes well, we can persuade everyone to work as a team of equals lending talents to the effort. I believe in self-organization. Other biological systems to it, why can’t humans?

Here’s the thing

Leadership is some nut inspiring me to do crazy shit. 


Management is a lamp shade blocking my light. 

If someone hasn’t done it already, let me say without equivocation command & control management is dead.

Management  & Leadership have never intersected on any Venn diagram universe I have known. One’s about control. The other is about inspiration. I don’t know about you, but I ain’t having the control shit.

Are most innovations born in environments of control or inspiration? Easy question.

Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

Derek Sivers’ Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy is an inspiring must-be-seen 3-minute video

Derek’s salient observation is that

The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.

This simple observation was a slap on the head from Captain Obvious. Sivers espouses the First Follower idea.

If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.

Sivers is also the first person to explain how cultural movements get started that made sense.


  • The leader embraces the First Follower as an equal. 
  • The First Follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.
  • The First Follower calls his friends to join then publicly shows everyone how to follow.
  • Being a First Follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. 
  • A few more followers joining the movement stokes momentum.
  • Sustainable movements eventually reach something akin to Gladwell’s Tipping Point.
  • As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky
Before you know it Bob’s your uncle – you’ve got a movement. We need leaders and we need early adopters bold enough to jump in even if it invites ridicule from peers. Today, a software generated experience might well be the wood pellets that stoke a movement somewhere, but it won’t happen without inspired people – crazy nuts and emboldened followers alike.


Read the full text of Derek Sivers’ TED talk in his blog post Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy.


  • Derek Sivers keeps saying stuff that makes sense to me.
  • Also, thank you Alan Cooper for the subtle coaching to replace management with command & control management – which is a concise way of saying what I meant.