A Leader or a Bad Apple?

We’ve all heard the saying that goes something like this: Anyone can be a manager but not everyone can be a leader. The concept of management and leadership is is seen for many people as one and the same, but is that really the case? Is a manager and a leader the same or, when you compare the two, are they completely different? Could it be that we might sometime get a bad apple?Bad Apples and Piano

A Leader or a Bad Apple?

Countless books, articles, posts, etc. have been written over the years about leadership. Some say this while others say that – and there probably isn’t one method that is any better than the other. Why? In the end, I think it is the person who makes the difference.


Apples and Pianos

Bad Apple and PianoAs I researched this very post, I found an article written by Sharlyn Lauby on LinkedIn.  Sharlyn summarized the answer better than I could hope to recreate and I share that with you:

I continue to be amazed when I read articles comparing management and leadership. I’m not really sure why the comparisons continue to exist. They are two completely different things. It’s like comparing apples and pianos.

Sharlyn’s comparison of apples and pianos was fantastic, but she doesn’t stop there. She goes on to say: Companies need leaders beyond the ones holding a manager or director job title.


The Seeker of Titles

Anyone working in Human Resource has seen the Title Seeker. (If you have not, give it some time – you will.) This is a person who cares more about a title rather than the work or the pay.  This employee may choose to increase his/her importance rather than pay rate. He/she may be in management, but he/she might also be on the front lines.

Bad Apple Title Seeker, HR

They care about the perceived power and level of importance that a title brings. They would rather instruct than inspire. They may demand as opposed to request. It may seem as if The Important Title is mentally projected around them in bright neon lights. You can’t miss them because they won’t let you. You will know of their importance. They are the center of attention and the world revolves around them – and couldn’t possibly exist without their importance.

Then, after that new title has become common, it is on to the next and feel free to use, misuse, usurp, etc. any person and/or commodity to secure that next Important Title.

The Title Seeker may even hold a manager or higher level position but they are not a leader for they do not inspire.

The Jobs Factor

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A longtime co-worker recently suggested that I read Steve Job’s biography. While I’ve not yet had the time to read it, I know that people have strong opinions about his life and works. Personally, I attribute Apple’s success today to the Steve Job’s vision. He created a mystique around all Apple products and converted me into a diehard Apple fanboy.

It was as if the world mourned when Steve Jobs passed away on October 05, 2011. Both Apple and Microsoft flew flags at half-staff while Disney properties did the same from October 06 – 12. World leaders such as President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron provided public remarks on his passing.

For two weeks, Apple.com replaced the usual homepage with a portrait of Jobs along with his year of birth and death.

Regardless of the style, it was the person. The person made an impact and he led not only his company but also the consumer market. He inspired and ushered us into a new age. When he passed, the world took notice. This person was a leader.


What Makes a Leader?

I think each of us have a leader inside. It may be circumstantial but it is there. I’ve posed a question, provided an example of a great leader, and gave an example of a type of person who is not a leader. Finally, I share with you what I believe makes a leader.

A leader is:

  • Someone who shows his/her subordinates that he/she is not too good to do the same work as the workers.
  • Inspires by actions.
  • Makes consistent decisions based on fairness and equality.
  • Places others first because success of others equals the success of them.
  • Takes criticism of their own actions with grace and poise – not gripe and posturing.
  • Acknowledges that they are where they are – have the title they have – because of two important things: their subordinates and the customer.
  • Someone who places the customer first.
  • Communicates criticism in a constructive manner.
  • creates opportunities to succeed.

In my almost 25 year work experience, it has been my honor to know and work for leaders who have passed valuable lessons down to me; however, I’ve also seen managers who were not leaders. But, maybe…they taught me something, too? Maybe they taught me what NOT to do! Maybe they were just….bad apples!



I thank Sharlyn Lauby for writing the post with quotes that helped transition this piece. They were the shining golden apple that brought beautiful music. I encourage you to read the entire post by clicking here.

Visit Sharlyn’s website at: http://www.hrbartender.com/

Information regarding Mr. Jobs was found on Wikipedia. Click here to access that post.

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