The Leadership Heresy You Can’t Live Without

by  David Dye  |  Leadership Development
The Leadership Heresy You Can’t Live Without

I’m in trouble now. I’m about to commit heresy. On a site dedicated to leadership, with the very word lead in the title, I want to address what I believe to be one of the most important aspects of your workplace leadership.

In my work with thousands of business leaders across industries, geography, and over many years, I’ve repeatedly seen people lose their influence because they don’t address this one thing.

In many leadership forums, many leadership books, and not a few social media memes, what I’m about to say would be skewered, and yet… your credibility and influence depend on it.

What is this leadership heresy? Management.

Why Management Is Vital To Your Leadership

Your leadership depends on your credibility. You can’t influence people if they don’t trust you. Where does that trust come from? In addition to relational health, the foundation of that trust is your basic management competence.

I don’t mean that you have to become a certified project management professional in order to have influence. What I do mean is that if you don’t have the basics in place, you create chaos and lose credibility with your people.

Now, I understand that many leadership texts will tell you, “if you’re not good at management, hire it.” Hogwash.

If you run the company, by all means, lead and then hire a good operations person to manage. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re like the vast majority of people with business leadership roles (99+%), the idea that you can hire someone to do your management for you is pure nonsense and dangerous as well.

Even if you should become CEO, you’re responsible to make sure these things happen. If they don’t, it’s your responsibility. The good news is, the basics of management aren’t difficult.

4 Steps to Manage Well & Build Credibility

At its most basic, management involves a few set of practices that are relatively simple. As the old saying goes: “it’s not hard, it’s just hard work”. When we struggle as managers, it is often because we have failed to do one of the following:

  1. Set Clear Expectations – I’ve coached managers and team leaders in more than 2000 sessions and in 90% or more of those conversations, the problems we’re discussing happened because expectations were not clear. It happened to me again recently. I was frustrated with my colleague’s work, but when I stopped to think about it, I hadn’t shared my expectations. I had my own image of what the project looked like and when it would be completed, but we’d never discussed it. Expectations can come from many sources: the team itself, the manager, the organization. Regardless, if they are not clear, they will not be met, and I can guarantee you will be frustrated.
  2. Train & Equip Your Team To Meet Expectations – After clear expectations, the next pitfall is in assuming that everyone has the knowledge or skills to meet those expectations. Ensure your team members are set up for success! Training isn’t a one-time event. Often your people need initial orientation, then spot checks and updated instruction along the way.
  3. Reinforce Expectations – This may sound redundant, but think about this for a moment. Every second your mind is inundated with eleven million pieces of information1. Think about how easily you can get distracted. In fact, I’ll bet that you’ll get distracted at least once while you read this article. Don’t worry, I’m not offended – that’s just the way we’re built. Effective leaders and managers know that they must continually reinforce expectations and keep clear priorities in front of their team. We all need reminders from time to time about where we’re going and why we’re going there. If your team were a rock and roll band, reinforcing expectations is like the bass line or drum that anchors the song and keeps everyone on track.
  4. Celebrate & Practice Accountability – Accountability doesn’t only mean discipline – real accountability celebrates our accomplishments and gives us course corrections as needed. We can easily demotivate our teams by failing to acknowledge success or by failing to hold everyone accountable.

Your Turn

Remember – your leadership influence is built on a foundation of trust. Your basic management skills provide a strong foundation for inspiring your team to build a better tomorrow. As you wrestle with management challenges, I invite you to ask these four questions:

  1. Are expectations clear to both parties?
  2. Does your team have the skills and equipment to succeed?
  3. Have you consistently reinforced the expectations?
  4. Do you consistently practice accountability and celebration?

1 – http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/287907/information-theory/214958/Physiology

Please leave us a comment and share how you ensure you take care of your management responsibilities (it’s not hard, but can be hard work!)

About The Author

Articles By david-dye
I work with leaders who want to build teams that care and get more done with fewer headaches.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

John E. Smith  |  19 Jun 2015  |  Reply

Hi, David – thanks for an great post.

As the old saying goes: “From your lips to God’s ear.”

I hope that your clear and thoughtful analysis of the overlay between leadership and management helps move us past the discussions around this. We need to spend our energy and time focusing on how effective leaders manage, how effective managers lead, and how to understand which is needed at a given time.

I will admit that I see more of folks gravitating toward one role or the other, than the leader who “hires” management to cover all those little details of keeping the railroad running.

Regardless, I appreciate your contributions here and elsewhere toward clarity in working with others as an influencer, whatever we call it:)


David Dye  |  19 Jun 2015  |  Reply

John, you said it well – we spend so much energy on either/or when, for the majority of people, it is a both/and.

Imagine if we spent the same energy arguing about the use of a knife or fork…?

Appreciate you,


Jack Durish  |  19 Jun 2015  |  Reply

I wonder if we disagree. You aver that “You can’t influence people if they don’t trust you.” If you really mean what you say, then we must disagree. Of course we can be influenced by people who don’t trust you. It happens every day.

They influence with guns. Not only directly but also with the mere threat. (If there were no threats, would we build defenses, avoid dangerous places, or arm ourselves – all indices of reactions to influence).

They influence us with force of law (in essence, with the guns wielded by our own government).

They influence us with paychecks. I may not trust you and firmly believe that you are leading us to perdition, but I’ll follow until the paychecks stop coming (especially in these days when paychecks are very tenuous things). Sadly, I have watched the employees of many corporations march in lockstep behind leaders who led them into the abyss of financial ruin despite warnings born of their own good common sense.

Now, if you care to distinguish between good and bad influences, good and bad management, good and bad leadership, I’ll be happy to concur. Until then, I’ll take my own path…

David Dye  |  19 Jun 2015  |  Reply

Hi Jack,

Thanks for the clarification – you are right in what I mean by the word influence. I would contrast influence vs compulsion.

Guns, paychecks, and threats are compulsion. On average, compulsion generates only the least productivity from people and that productivity disappears when the threat is gone. Biologically, when we’re afraid, we do the least possible to get out of the situation.

Of course, I’d be a fool to suggest that fear and compulsion can’t accomplish things…of course they can. But I’ve never worked with a manager or leader who wanted to work that way or was satisfied with the results it produces. Influence allows for sustainable results achieved over time.

Appreciate the analysis!

Take care,


Alonzo Mosley  |  24 Jun 2015  |  Reply

I would argue it’s not that you trust the guy holding the gun, but you trust the fact that he will shoot you if you don’t do as he says. Otherwise, you aren’t influenced by the gun.

You don’t trust the “guns wielded by government”, but you trust that you will suffer discouraging consequences for not following the law.

So in that sense, you are only influenced by that which you trust.

John E. Smith  |  19 Jun 2015  |  Reply

I’m sure David will have a response, but here is my two cents worth (along with a money-back guarantee:) …

I don’t know the technical definition of influence, but when I use that term, it means to motivate to action. “Coerce” seems like a better choice for the type of motivation provided by weapons or rules. It is certainly involuntary, again as opposed to how I normally think of “influence”.

“Influence” just seems a kinder and gentler word …


Debra Tolsma  |  24 Jun 2015  |  Reply

From “heresy” to “hogwash”! You’ve given us a fun read.

But you’ve also given us the truth. Leading and managing are distinct yet complimentary disciplines (John Kotter said this) and leaders need to execute both.

As I studied leadership/management in my previous organization, I was struck by how far the pendulum had swung toward management. My theory? In the decade of decline where survival was the goal, “management” helped organizations get things done and done quickly. Was it done effectively? Eh, maybe not. But the pendulum has swung back.

Now we just need to help organizations and leaders recognize the balance of both leading and managing so they can sustain the growth they are now enjoying.

David Dye  |  01 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Well said Debra!

Paula Lucey  |  24 Jun 2015  |  Reply

I completely agree. The word management has gotten a bad name, a role to try to escape. To me, it is impossible to lead if you do not have an idea how things actually work. Not every detail but how does it work in general.

James Pickett  |  25 Jun 2015  |  Reply

David, I absolutely agree with your article! I am not sure how “management” became a dirty word in business circles, but it is absolutely a necessary component to being a successful leader. Being a great manager can be boiled down to effectively administering one-on-ones, coaching, delegation, and feedback. Leaders with sustained success know and practice the basics of management.

David Dye  |  01 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Thanks James. As for why – I imagine it’s due in part to managers that didn’t treat people as people. That and the business-lit bookshelves are targeted toward executives or aspiring executives.

Rob Stevens  |  01 Jul 2015  |  Reply

David – I too like what you’ve written and wonder why so much time is spent trying to create a silo for leadership and a silo for management. I think some of the banter fails to take into account the reality of organizations today. Does anyone simply lead or manage in their role today? Maybe a few but most people have to balance how they lead and manage their teams as well as make an individual contribution, or performance, to their company.

David Dye  |  16 Jul 2015  |  Reply

Thanks Rob – I think some of it is a natural result of splitting things up in order to study them. Some of it comes from people thinking of one as more fun or inspiring…and still more is the result of a lack of human-centered leadership, dignity, etc that many people reacted to by emphasizing leadership.

Take care,


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