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!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


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.  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.  What they do not easily realize that leaders are often rugged individualists able to assume power and authority by the sheer presence of their strength while managers are instruments necessary for the accomplishment of assigned tasks but often fail to rise above their surroundings.  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.  At the risk of over-simplifying a complicated issue,


·         Coordinating and directing activities in order to accomplish defined goals or objectives
·         Telling others what to do (and, often, when/how to do it)
·         Assigning and overseeing specific activities that must be performed by others to complete work or projects in a predictable and proven way
·         Directing, measuring, and correcting work activities intended to accomplish assigned tasks
·         Accomplishing personal or corporate objectives through the efforts of others
·         Top down directives with little room for self-expression
·         More autocratic than democratic – often accepting responsibility for success
·         Minimizing chaos (maximizing order and control) to produce structured results
·         Working through others to accomplish objectives
·         Expecting others to do as they are told so things are done correctly
·         Making sure people are doing things right


·         Defining objectives then facilitating discussion on how best to accomplish them
·         Asking for input from others before telling others what should be done
·         Assigning responsibility for and providing accountability to others for the work they do
·         Demonstrating practices and welcoming input that will improve results
·         Accomplishing shared objectives through the efforts of the team
·         Lifting (and holding) the team up so it can accomplish great things
·         More democratic than autocratic – but responsible for both successes and failures
·         Allowing controlled chaos to create effective solutions
·         Working with others to accomplish great things
·         Not asking others to do what they would not do themselves
·         Making sure objectives are being accomplished and credit is being given appropriately

Those who cannot differentiate power from authority often diminish their ability to rise with their team – 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 – choosing to manage their current situation rather than leading in the discovery of a new solution.  Those seeking power often do so at the expense of gaining respect – mortgaging their long-term integrity for a short-term taste of recognition.  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.

To bring others along with us as we accomplish great things we must lead rather than manage – pull others with us rather than pushing them from behind.  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 – finding the most effective passage through whatever obstacle presents itself - at work, at home or in their personal relationships.