The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Leadership and management are not synonymous.    Though some feel they must be “fully in control” if they are to be “in charge” of a situation – that to acknowledge challenge or criticism weakens their position of authority – they lose the power of leadership when they force others into being managed.  Living within the darkened confines of a box without windows, many feel that leading and managing are synonymous – that to lead they must actively and overtly establish themselves as being in charge – of managing and controlling the actions of another.  Managers need to plan, measure, monitor, coordinate, solve, hire, fire, and so many other things. Typically, managers manage things. Leaders lead people.  The definition of a leader is someone who has followers – people who believe in the leader’s values, abilities, and judgments enough that they are willing to support him or her as they are led towards a shared destination.  This is far different from managing someone’s actions or directing them to accomplish an assigned activity as no loyalty or belief is required when direction comes from a position of assumed power rather than one of sincere trust.

There is a difference between Wisdom and Knowledge.  Though some feel that knowing all the answers (even if they might not know all the questions) is tantamount to reaching for (and achieving) the brass ring as they ascend to life’s mountaintops, they fail to account for situational differentiation as one size does not fit all solutions.  They miss the subtle difference between wisdom and knowledge – failing to recognize that knowledge is a result of study while wisdom is the tangible result of one’s application of the knowledge they
have been able to accumulate.  They often feel that “knowledge is power” without thinking that false knowledge (or misinformation) might bring their empires crashing down.  We often find ourselves feeling sorry for the weak – those unfortunate souls unable to care for themselves.  Should we not be more concerned for those who live within the fragile shell of unearned success – for those living upon a foundation of insignificant effort and unwarranted accomplishment built upon the backs of those trampled into submission?  It is these seekers of wisdom who deceive themselves – who live on the surface of a bubble ready to burst – as they attempt to rise upon the wave of humanity they have put beneath their feet.  Wisdom implies a possession of knowledge – an understanding of people, things, events and situations – and the willingness to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with an understanding of what is the right course of action.  Wisdom is an insatiable need to move forward – to accomplish things – coupled with an unwavering ability to use good judgment.  Knowledge – information gathered through study or experience – is leveraged in the making of good decisions but without life experience and an understanding of how facts influence our decisions it can only point us towards a destination rather than leading us to a definitive end.

Those who cannot differentiate power from authority often diminish their ability to elevate themselves – choosing instead to raise themselves upon the work, effort and accomplishments of others OR minimize the
work of others so they appear to have risen without doing anything to advance their cause or purpose.  Individuals unable to accept success as a stepping stone rather than a destination – as a point from which to leap rather than a place upon which they settle – often find themselves chasing windmills rather than harnessing the wind.  They find that coasting downhill is easier than pedaling up and accept living in the valley rather than climbing to the next peak.  Those seeking power often do so at the expense of gaining authority.  Seeking power focuses efforts on the means rather than the ends – on how something should be accomplished rather than on what must ultimately be achieved – often inhibiting creative efforts that might exceed (rather than simply meeting) expectations.  Those accepting authority find themselves given more power than they could ever have imagined for when authority is assumed the responsibility (and reward) for outcomes is freely given.

Relationships fail when an individual tears down people rather than trying to lift them up.  I have seen otherwise successful individuals fail once they achieved their goal because they became content with the
steps taken (while looking in the rear view mirror) rather than looking forward to what might yet be accomplished.  I have seen people exert assumed power upon individuals to change them rather than influencing their behaviors through appropriate use of their authority.  To bring others along with us as we accomplish great things we must lead rather than push.  We must establish and demonstrate confidence in our own abilities before we can expect anyone else to have confidence in us.  Anyone can manage by imposing their will upon those around them – by forcing compliance through a position of power.  Only those willing to learn, to apply their knowledge and exercise their authority (by sharing successes and assuming blame) will become leaders – at work, at home or in their personal relationships.