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Industrial Supervision Field Research on Leadership and Management

Industrial Supervision Field Research on Leadership and Management


This paper covers both leadership and management for various technology based fields. The differences between leadership and management are explained along with the ways that these roles integrate into the industry. A firsthand look is researched by interviewing a professional in the field with extensive experience in both areas. Educational importance and relevance is also examined for today’s technological industry to understand how educational factors impact careers in technology based fields. Each topic is designed to translate into advice and experience that is valuable for the corporate market of today's technology standards.

Leadership and management are powerful business skills for the technology field. The pace of technological advancement is quick and is ever changing which creates unique challenges that are industry specific. Rapid change requires leaders with a clear vision and adaptive managers who can operate efficient teams. Leadership and management are sometimes confused as synonyms, or are misused when describing people or their job roles. In this research paper, I will explain some of the core differences between the two terms, and examine ways to identify these characteristics in people.

Both leadership and management are critical for business success and must be utilized appropriately. Leadership is the ability to create vision and generate followers of that vision, and a way of inspiring people along the way. Management is the tracking of metrics and employee reviews as well as the hiring and firing of employees. We all have our own ideas about what a leader looks like or what a manager acts like, so let's explore further into these characteristics and expose what they really mean.

A common misconception is that leaders are charismatic. This implies that charisma is a necessary leadership skill, which is not always true. Of course, charisma can complement one's leadership ability, but it is important to understand the difference between someone who is charismatic and someone who is a leader. Kruse mentions this topic in a Forbes contributor article titled What is Leadership, “We often think of icons from history like General Patton or President Lincoln. But leadership isn’t an adjective. We don’t need extroverted charismatic traits to practice leadership. And those with charisma don’t automatically lead” (Kruse, 2013). Of course, there are many highly charismatic leaders and they often get societal publicity, but the point is that being a charismatic person does not mean that you are a leader. Managers typically focus on performance, job satisfaction, and employee development within their teams. Buckingham explains in What Great Managers Do, “It takes time and effort to gain a full appreciation of an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. The great manager spends a good deal of time outside the office walking around, watching each person’s reactions to events, listening, and taking mental notes about what each individual is drawn to and what each person struggles with. There’s no substitute for this kind of observation, but you can obtain a lot of information about a person by asking a few simple, open-ended questions and listening carefully to the answers.” (Buckingham, 2005). Asking valuable questions and making critical observations is at the heart of what excellent managers must do.

Now that a few of the key differences between leadership and management have been covered, examples from an individual who has extensive experience in both roles will be explored.

I conducted an interview on a person who has held several management and leadership roles throughout his career. The name John has been used in place of the individual's actual name in order to keep his identity anonymous. The interview with John was conducted on Sunday, March 22nd, 2015. John started his technology career with an electrical engineering degree, and he also attended an executive leadership program at the University of Pennsylvania. He has an advanced degree and studied artificial intelligence many years ago. His career started out as a technical engineer, but he has since transitioned into leadership and management roles starting about 25 years ago. A few areas of his management experience included software development, product management, product strategy, consulting services, and implementation services. His later experience includes a senior vice president role at a company that focuses on energy utilities, and at another company in which he held an executive role with responsibilities overseeing intelligence for power grids, enterprise integration, and asset management.

John wanted to make the clear distinction between leadership and management. In the interview, he mentioned, “a leader has an idea of where a company or team is headed, knows how to motivate people, and can adapt to changing situations while keeping the same goals” (Smith 2015). Managers focus mostly on the metrics, productivity, efficiency, problem resolution, and how employee performance fits into those categories. Both are important in the business world and both play unique roles in how they attribute to a business's success or failure. In John’s experience, he states that, “it is difficult to find an individual who is both a good leader and a good manager. If someone posses both of these qualities, then they have a great potential to go far with a company" (Smith, 2015).

A leader is responsible for communicating the direction, vision, and goal of a company. Leaders need to motivate other people though their communication abilities. Motivating other people is important when accomplishing team goals. Often great leaders are not as immersed in the actual technical details as the people that they are leading. Instead, they are empowering the people around them to achieve goals. Myatt explains in 10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders, "It is simply impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator. I hope you noticed the previous sentence didn’t refer to being a great talker – big difference. The key to becoming a skillful communicator is rarely found in what has been taught in the world of academia" (Myatt, 2012).

Managers often use communication to express details about how someone can be more efficient. It is important in both roles to remember that everyone has their own options and views of the world. Managers must take charge of an unbeneficial situation on a team and often this involves implementing a plan to change behavior. Stone explains in 5 Communication Skills that Open People’s Minds, "if any mind-changing is to happen we have to challenge their opinions at some point. But nothing good comes from questioning their experience. They had their experience, and it led them to where they are today. In fact, we need to understand and validate their experience so we can understand where they’re coming from, and so that they feel understood" (Stone, 2014). Also, a distinction between leadership and management is that leadership will typically deal with effectiveness and management will deal with efficiency.

Educational requirements in technology industries vary vastly based on position and company culture. A reality in some technology jobs shows that no formal education may be necessary. In some circumstances, social connections coupled with technical ability are enough to rise up in a company. Most technology sectors do not have strict educational government regulations like those required in medical practice fields. Many medical fields require accredited degrees and certifications in order to practice. There has been an ongoing debate over school costs vs. benefits as covered by Nisen and Giagn in These 19 Insanely Successful College Dropouts Prove You Don't Need A Degree, “Some, like PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel, claim that college just isn't worth it in the age of startups. He's giving 20 bright young people $100,000 each to start a company instead” (Nisen & Giagn, 2013).

John mentions that the respect of the people who you work with is critical when in a management or leadership role. A degree may provide an entry point for a job but respect and capability will sustain a career. John provided an example of a great leader who he met while he attended leadership training several years ago. This individual had no formal education credentials aside from some fundamental high school courses, but for what he lacked in formal education, he made up for in practical experience by starting and managing over 27 companies. Another example was provided of a woman who has a degree in French and became a general manager of information technology applications for a large company. Her communication and that this is partly because of his dislike for payroll activities and performance reviews. He admits that having a team who is willing and capable of performing management duties is critical but this is different from what he currently focuses on as a leader. Previously, he was on a technical management path at a former company. He began to work with a new mentor and began to focus on developing people communication skills. John recognizes the importance of knowing your people, understanding what they are good at, and what motivates them. Different motivations exist across employees and some include but are not limited to money, career development, and fame. A person's motivation can shift throughout their lifetime based on their needs and wants. It is important to understand how this relates to a person’s job satisfaction.

A current popular trend in leadership training is called situational leadership in which the leadership style is adapted to a specific set of circumstances. Ibarra explains in Becoming a Leader is Not Like Improving Your Golf Swing, “...good leaders choose among the leadership styles or change strategies in their repertoire the one that best matches their current situation, much like a golfer chooses among the various clubs in his bag the one that best fits the ball’s location. The repertoire of leadership “swings” is ours: we own it, we take it with us from one golf course to the next. The clubs don’t change with practice” (Ibarra, 2010). Some people may know exactly what they want from a career and others may be less clear. It is important for a leader to help empower and identify someone’s true interest and capabilities.

When hiring an employee, there are several critical qualities that need to be assessed. In the technology field, often technical capability is the first skill assessed and can over dominate the focus of an interview. Work ethic and cultural fit can be as important as or even more important than technical ability. A highly technical individual without strong work ethic may waste large amounts of time and may not be committed to the team’s project once hired. An individual who is not a cultural fit for the company may not be able to reach their full potential, and in turn could cause employee tension. Finding a candidate who is a high level match for all of the listed criteria is difficult and critical. Hiring or moving someone onto a team where they do not fit can be detrimental to the performance of the team as a whole. In many cases, a decision must be made on areas of compromise. A weighting system can be used to quantify a candidate who meets categories on varying levels. A balanced system should be used to measure all applicants. It is critical for a fair unbiased judgment so that variables do not dictate the outcome and provide unintended results.John finds that having a team who believes in you is the most rewarding part of his job as a leader. Of course, the underlying fundamentals are still important such as the bottom line, business goals, income before tax, and long term profitability. Although, the path towards reaching these end goals should be fun and rewarding. For example, if every employee is burnt out by overtime work in order to meet a goal, then much of the reward aspect is diminished. If goals are set in a fun and rewarding way, then the team can better thrive and the reward as a leader is greater.John experienced a diminishment of team focus from a previous company that he worked for and this clashed with his value system. The focus of the previous owners' became too directed towards profit and this began to discourage the rewarding team component that John finds important. This important factor drove his decision to leave his former employer and begin his own company.

For John, one of the least rewarding parts of being a manager is repetitive paperwork. This reflects his greater interest towards leadership roles as opposed to management based roles. Of course, both involve some paperwork, but management typically has a heavier focus on reviews and tracking metrics which requires report based paperwork.

Company growth is an ongoing subject for managers and leaders. Exponential growth can be especially impactful on employees and team dynamics. At the start of a small company, often employees will cross over various areas of expertise and move around quickly towards the area of demand. As a company grows, employees and teams can become segmented from one another, and people and may become detached from the fundamental vision of the company. Leaders have to work on varying scales within a business and must rely on effective communication between departments and management so that the vision remains unified across all business departments. In a high level leadership position for a medium to large company, presentation communication is critical because you will often need to present to a large number of people at once in order to reach to the large number of employees. With the growth of a leadership position, understanding group dynamics and group communication is critical in addition to individual communication.

Knowing the trend in your market is a fundamental challenge for a leadership position. It is critical to align the business and goals towards the predicted future trends so that you can get your company in front of a trend instead of chasing after a trend. Time positioning, strategic planning, and resource allocation are all fundamental when working with trends. John believes that this is the most challenging part of a leadership role. Aside from fundamental laws of nature, the future is not predictable. Estimates and historical data can be used for future estimates and analysis, but this only creates an educated guess within a margin of error.It is also critical for leaders in growth companies to understand the relationship between business growth and risk. Seeking certainty and relying on conclusive data works in well established business but is often not the best method for growth companies. Wiltbank explains this in the article In Search of Growth Leaders, " is deadly in the world of growth, where what a company doesn't know is far more important than what it does know. Growth is all about uncertainty and how to work with it. Prediction and analysis have their place, but they can't be the only tools a business has" (Wiltbank, 2008).Looking back at communication, John experienced a situation where he was leading a team of developers who had no direct contact with their customers. The communication chain involved a technical support frontline team, sales team, and account management team. The information was diluted and not always correctly translated to the end developer and created overhead for a critical business process. John instructed the developers to speak directly with their customers for a period of time so that they could accurately understand what the customer needs. The focus of the developer’s discussions was about today's business needs and future needs. Sometimes customer needs are not accurately expressed by the customer. For example, a customer might have what they think is the problem and then request a fix for a specific component or piece of technology. Upon further investigation by the supporting company, it may be found that the problem described is fundamentally another problem due to lack of education about a specific product or an inefficient implementation of a technology. In the same respect, future requirements may be communicated as an, “I want to do this” type of approach. It is up to the developers to work through the code or the process and to understand then develop the most efficient way of accomplishing the customer’s goal. Often, there are several smaller goals or milestones along the way that need to be identified, set on a timescale, and achieved.

When preparing to enter the technical profession or any profession, it is important to understand your values, interests, and goals. Varying levels of technical paths exists from generalists all the way to PhD work on a very specific technology. Generalists, in a sense, may accomplish or do more things with pieces of technology for a goal where specialized individuals may focus on development and changes to a specific piece of technology.

It is important to have a direction and understand your management strengths and weaknesses. Be certain to identify and use your strengths to leverage your ability within an organization. Both depth and broad knowledge is essential for a successful business and employees who possess varying types of knowledge must work together. An in depth employee may be able to find and fix problems that would likely take substantially longer for a broad knowledge employee. On the other hand, a broad knowledge employee should have a better understanding of how all of the pieces fit together and might be able to see that the problem is actually on the other side of where the technologies connect together. In my experience, this is applicable for operating system software development. Hundreds of applications exist and are interrelated in a complex structure. Each application or tool has its own complexities and the code and must communicate with the underlying source language of the operating system while following defined standards. If a standard is broken, it is important to identify where this has occurred.

Leadership and management skills are valuable for personal development at any level of your career, and can apply across a large variety of job roles. These skills can impact various areas of the business world and your personal life. The differences between leadership and management were also covered at a fundamental level as an introduction for further research on these topics. The tools and experiences mentioned within this research were designed to help you to better distinguish between these skills for practical use in the business world. As noted, the differences are important to keep in mind when making career decisions and while executing job duties. In daily life, someone may display both leadership and management skills, and can apply them to various scenarios. A master of both is uncommon and is highly sought after in any industry. The ability to develop and identify leadership and management skills will certainly remain valuable despite changing and emerging technology trends. Leadership and management styles will continue to adapt, but the underlying principles should not become obsolete, which is what makes this knowledge so valuable.


Buckingham, M. (2005, March 1). What Great Managers Do. Retrieved from

Ibarra, H. (2010, June 1). Becoming a Leader is Not Like Improving Your Golf Swing. Retrieved from

Kruse, K. (2013, April 9). What Is Leadership? Retrieved from

Myatt, M. (2012, April 4). 10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders. Retrieved from leaders/

Nisen, M., & Giang, V. (2013, September 3). These 19 Insanely Successful College Dropouts Prove You Don't Need A Degree. Retrieved from successful-college-droputs-2013-9

Smith, J. (2015, March 22). Personal interview with J. Smith.

Stone, J. (2014, May 30). 5 Communication Skills that Open People’s Minds. Retrieved from communication-skills-open-people-s-minds

Wiltbank, R. (2008, July 7). In Search of Growth Leaders. Retrieved from

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