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Engineering firms leadership: Are leaders similar to managers?

In FMB laser cutting is ruling over metal integrity without raising any questionable eyebrows in case of profit. Laser cutting is usually the first step of the process before it continues down the line to undergo metal bendingmetal rolling, and other types of metal fabrication in stainless steelmild steel and aluminium.

Leadership is a subject where many leadership scholars struggle to find the right definition. Some may say leadership is not similar to management or management is simply leadership. In this analytical essay, I will argue that leadership is truly distinct from management however, they co-exist in all organizations. Leadership and management do not function independently but rather interdependent of each other. I will include one of the Chinese classical book from the Yin-Yang Theory of The Book of Changes (Yijing) in explaining how leadership and management needs to co-exist to ensure that organizations remains efficient and effective.


The second part of this analytical essay, I will be arguing that moral principles makes leaders more effective rather than hindering them from executing a task effectively with support from the Five Factor Model. The proposition for this argument is directed at ethical leadership will only work if other characteristic comes into play, which will in turn boost the effectiveness of a leader. Morality and ethics plays high importance in leadership as leaders are portrayed as the perfect person, extraordinary beings compared to their followers that makes the leader outstanding from the rest. However in some cases, it may not be that the leaders exemplify great ethics and morals. Some scenarios and examples will also be discussed in this analytical essay.


Lastly, I will finalize my both my arguments by summing up effective distinctive leadership with management, through right morals principles and ethics, and the possible a positions an organization could undertake in the context of leadership and general management.



Leadership is truly distinct from management


Leadership is never similar to management. Leadership can be described and explained as a set of thinking that is created to play a helping role in which blame can be effectively pointed towards a right direction (Gemmill & Oakley, 1992). However, leadership scholars do not have a clear definition on the exact term on leaderships and its functions, which fails to separate popular beliefs from the exact meaning of leadership and its functions (Rost, 1991). Therefore, it is essential to clearly state and outline the roles that leaders play which greatly differ from managers. The ideas in practice for leaders and managers are generally a few folds.


Managers and leaders perception towards achieving goals


Firstly, leaders and managers have different attitudes and aspirations towards achieving their goals (Zaleznik, 1986). Basically, they think differently, act differently and execute differently. Manager’s goals are formulated through what must be achieved rather than achieving them through personal desires and pro-activeness. As such, it would be fair to say that they act towards what must be done to keep their key performance index in check. One good example to exemplify such concept happened in my organization. My role in the company as an Account Manager, is to execute task effectively under the instructions of my Chief Executive Officer. My company, Hitachi Critical Facilities Protection Pte Ltd provides our clients with state of the art lightning protection system which is extremely difficult to sell. However, my CEO managed to formulate goals and aims, with sales strategy penetration into untapped markets by using different sales channels and partners to increase our support. This was done out of the context as a leader, creating a direction and brought our purpose in this organization to the whole new level. Such motivation and attitudes towards work is totally different from what managers can do.


Managers and leaders perception towards work

Secondly, their views on work is very different. Managers make decisions through selecting the right people with the right collaboration, and with the correct strategies in place executed by right men, that is the expected outcome of what managers should do and must do (Zaleznik, 1986). However, leader have a different views on work. What they do is basically to be selective on their choices, always thinking out of the box, and not afraid to open another can of worms into outstanding problems (Zaleznik, 1986). It is very clear that managers and leaders play their role differently into problem solving and managing expectations. Managers manages expectations while leader creates expectations (Smircich & Morgan, 1982). It is a clear standing signal that leaders and managers react differently to problems and their thought process greatly differs as mentioned in this paragraph. I could cite another workplace example of mine to display a strong difference between leaders and managers. We all have a set of Key Performance Index to meet which was laid down by the top management and the human resource department. In an organization like mine, we have managers throughout and everyone is concerned of their key performance index. Managers like me, would avoid problems as much as possible and to ensure there is no extra ingredients added to our portfolio. However, one of the top management, who is the General Manager of the organization, constantly pushes us and ensure we develop new ideas according to his strategy, which ensures the survival of the organization. A true leader does not know only how to solve problem, but the fundamental of a being a leader is to recognize there is a problem. What I see in my organization is that the General Manager is not afraid of facing the problem because he sees a different purpose that require him to address. It is an essential measure to take on for the long term. With such a visionary leader, many could not see his vision and begins to detest him. In the long term, when the effects takes shape, everyone will enjoy the fruits of labour because of his vision. Thereby, a clear distinction between a leader and a manager towards work.


Managers and leaders perception towards relationship building

Thirdly, relationship building methodology and approach is different for leaders and managers. Managers require support from others, and they do enjoy working with people. Although they do enjoy working with people, they do not take empathy into play as much as leaders do. Managers lack empathy, they are not sensitive towards feelings of others (Zaleznik, 1986). For empathy to come into the picture, it is not merely just about taking detail into people. It is essential to take feelings into the relationship to make them mean something (Zaleznik, 1986). What we have defined leadership may have a vast difference on what we may have experienced (Rost, 1991). It was also mentioned in one of the journal by Burns that leaders is constantly fixing issues that fulfills needs and the wants of people (Burns, 1978). As such, relationship building between followers and leaders are complex as many different leadership styles come into the picture to formulate and foster relationship building. To simply put the distinction between the relationship methodology between managers and leaders, managers are concerned and focus how to get tasks completed while leaders focused their attention on the process and situations that followers undergo (Zaleznik, 1986). A good example to showcase both leader and manager’s relationship building technique would be using another example in my workplace. My head of engineering is pretty hot headed but get things done effectively. She plays no role in being empathetic to people’s family problems but to only demand people to complete the task which was assigned to her. Besides, jumping authority to get things done is extremely common in my workplace. As such, such person’s personality and character created a negative atmosphere in the company and all co-workers are extremely unhappy about the way she handle things. The only two person who appreciate the work done up is the chief executive officer and the chairman. Rapport among colleagues and inter-department head are extremely thaw and negative, though she gets all the credits for completing the job beautifully. In contrast, my human resource department director plays a role of being empathetic towards our cause and attends our team bonding very often. She tries to attend all rapport building activities and constant ask how the company’s human resource policies can better improve over time to ensure a lower staff turnover rate. The human resource director is constantly on the ground, gathering feedbacks to ensure everyone is satisfied in the workplace. From my example listed above, it is very obvious that both belong to the top management but one exemplify a manager’s characteristic and the other exemplify leadership qualities.




Leadership is somewhat mix of both managers and leaders

There may be many heated arguments on the nature of leaders and managers and the roles they play, where distinction is a must to distinguish these two types of people, we cannot deny that a leader can also be trained and groomed to become a manager, vice-versa. In some instances, we have virtually forgotten that organizations are ran by managers (Nicolls, 2002). Organization just cannot simply live on leaders neither can it only live on managers. One of the principal fundamentals of running an organization is administration (Nicolls, 2002).



Theory of Yin and Yang with Leadership and Management

The theory of Yin and Yang is one of the most important concept of the ancient Chinese philosophy. The philosophical importance lies with the two opposing forces that becomes stronger and then weaker, and at the same time nourishing one another, turning one another into cyclically, that is constantly supporting and helping each other (Yang, 2008).



The symbol shown above illustrates that within Yang, there is a tiny dot of Yin. Within Yin, there is tiny dot of Yang. To put it simply, in every Yang, there will be Yin. And in every Yin, there will be Yang. The contradictory elements, Yin and Yang, are the ingredients and fundamentals that must be present for harmony to be established. If Yin is present without Yang, there is no harmony, and the rules are vice-versa (Yang, 2008) This theory is presented and discussed in the Book Of Changes (Yijing), that an independent Yin will have no interaction and an independent Yang cannot interact on its own (Yang, 2008). The ultimate goal is to achieve harmony as depicted by the symbol above.


The theory on Yin and Yang introduced into this analytical essay on leadership was solely due to the fact that organizations cannot solely run on managers neither could organizations run on leaders. I take for an example, leaders are Yang while Managers are Yin, in every leader, a small part of them may be managers and in every managers, a small part of them may be leaders. This concept applies to many things in life, not solely restrictive to the corporate industrialized world.


Managers are also leaders

In another school of thought, instead of differentiating the abilities and the traits between leaders and managers, High profile management may be just the right term to use on managers who possess abilities and traits of a leader. Basically, they are also leaders. High profile management outline and state key things that managers need to do that bend beyond administration (Nicolls, 2002).


We are well aware that one of the roles of leaders is to inspire and motivate, create a direction for its follow and lead them towards that particular direction (Nicolls, 2002). What about managers? Do they not inspire and motivate? The fact that good managers provide three most important factor to be good which inspiration, direction are and supervision (Nicolls, 2002). Such qualities are seen equally on leaders as well. And not forgetting the actual fact that organizations are ran by managers: chairman, chief executive, supervisors, captains (Nicolls, 2002).


Ultimately, top managers take on leadership position as we do see Chief Executive Officer but not Chief Leadership Officer (Nicolls, 2002). The basis for the existence of an organization is administration. Administration deals with planning, monitoring, which forms part of managing. Without administration, organization would stall (Nicolls, 2002). Understanding this particular concept would help us better understand that management and leadership is never far apart from each other, and they are always inherent of each other.


I take on another example from my previous workplace, a much smaller organization with a total manpower of 60 in total. The organizational structure is very flat and every one of us reports directly to the managing director. Due to the limited number of people in the organization, resources are pretty limited. Being the head of the company, he has to formulate strategies, possess empathy in times to come. He is the manager as well as the leader. In actual fact, he is maximizing his resources to the fullest extent, and taking full control of all situations. There may be negative impacts for playing both a role of a manager and a leader but, it boils down to the managing director ability to use both a manager’s traits as well as a leader’s traits to steer the organization to new heights.



Values, moral and ethical principles make leaders more effective:

Planting the seed of good culture and eliminating negative values

Values and moral principles are essential characteristics a leader must possess. The reasons and purpose of having such qualities and values are many folds.


Moral and value principles consist of the first step to ethical decision making. (Jones, 1991) If ethical decision making did not build or substantiate on the basis where moral and principles are the primary foundation, the process of ethical thoughts will not be present in the first place (Jones 1991).


A leader with good moral and value principles will ensure organization is not infested with bad habits and cultures (Lozano, 2000). Leaders with higher levels of moral reasoning with moral principles, are less vulnerable from organizational culture (Trevino, 1986). Thus, resistance to change or steered towards creating a negative culture in the organization is lowered.


Leaders are often associated with powers and authorities, moral and value principles and it is important to ensure that such authorities and power are not being abused. A classic example where leaders may ended up being abusive in power, it has a co-relation with Machiavellian. In contrast to ethical leaders, Machiavellian leaders are inclined having to make use of followers in order to achieve own selfish agenda benefitting only himself. The trust level towards people around him is low (Brown & Trevino, 2006). As such, leaders of such quality have no morals and principles. It has detrimental effects on both their followers and the organization. As such, Machiavellianism is not having a positive relation to good value and moral principles.


It is also important to note that being ethical is not enough to contribute to the effectiveness of leadership. We also need to take into consideration of the leader’s characteristics and personality in order for leaders to be efficient and effective with regards to ethical leadership. One of the key model, the Five Factor Model, conceptualizes leader’s traits that that linked within these five factors that includes openness, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism (Tupes & Christal, 1961). Among these five traits, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism will be related to ethics in leadership effectiveness (Brown & Treviño, 2006). The trait that make the strongest impact to ethical leadership is the agreeableness (Brown & Treviño, 2006). Agreeableness is directly related to being trustworthy, cooperative and altruistic. Ethical leaders are known to be altruistically motivated, showing empathy, and concerning their followers even outside their work and the caring for the society (Treviño, 2003). Social learning school of thought may give us another perspective on leaders with the agreeableness traits. It states that they are more effective as role models, linked to ethical leadership, as they attract and keep observer’s attention in check, than those who did not possess the agreeableness traits (Yussen & Levy, 1975).



In my organization, the tendency for people to form small clan within the organization are people who have worked for many years. The leader of the clan, who is head of the department, is the Indian chief of the clan and everybody within that particular department is there to pledge loyalty to him. Getting favoured by the Indian chief within the department will receive promotion and other perks. Thereby, such cultures are pretty toxic as one person is in power for too long, the morality and values are simply non-existence, all for the love of power. Besides, people who does not pledge loyalty towards him gets axed within the next few weeks through dirty methods. As such, it is very obvious that leadership without ethics will form a pretty negative culture that I had laid down in this paragraph. Corrective actions to these problems may include occasion job rotation, preventing the head of department from amassing power which can led to toxic organization cultures, benefitting himself of his selfish agenda only. The ultimate results and outcome must cater to employees’ satisfaction at work and creating value not only for these workers but also for the organization.


On the other hand, I must re-emphasize the point that being ethical with right moral values and principles may not make a leader effective as it seems. Another good example I would want to showcase is to bring forth the conflict that happened among inter-department with the engineering department. The head of the engineering department is a very professional lady with high morality and principles. She is highly intellectual but is always in conflict with other people in the company as she is not someone who is altruistic, trusting, kind and cooperative. These traits are defined as someone who has the traits of agreeableness (Tupes & Christal, 1961). Besides, she is highly favoured by the board of directors who thinks that she is highly capable. Though she is a leader by “appointment”, there is no openness and trust, which we had many communications problems and barrier. Thereby, this example is used to showcase that being ethical with right moral principles will not necessary be effective. It has to go hand in hand with other personalities and characteristics of a leader listed out above.



Importance of morality and ethics in leadership

Ethical leadership deals with making decision with leader possessing righteous conduct, displaying such conduct through interactions and communications with his followers that is morally right and acceptable (Brown et al., 2005). To go deeper on the concept of ethical leadership, in layman terms, ethical leadership from a simple perspective, it is a behavioral requirement on how leaders should behave (Ciulla, 2004). The basis of ethical leadership builds on leader’s personality such as integrity, honesty and trustworthiness. This has also been linked to the leader’s effectiveness. (Den Hartog et al., 1999; Kirkpatrick & Locke,

1991; Kouzes & Posner, 1993; Posner & Schmidt, 1992)


It is very important for leaders to possess the right ethics in leadership as ethical leaders frequently interacts and communicate with their followers about ethics, benchmarking clear directions on the standards on ethical issues, using systems of punishment and rewards to ensure that followers adhered to those standards set by leaders (Treviño, 2003). Leaders with ethics do not talk the walk, they walk the talk and took great amounts of initiative on ethical conduct. Such traits is extremely important in being an ethical leader as it will influence decision making process and set a baseline for future decision makings, and creating a positive culture in the organization.


Ultimately, ethical leadership is closely linked with positivity in the attitudes of followers (Brown & Trevino, 2006) One example of positivity in the attitudes of the followers is supported by a research done on transformational leadership, which received high ratings that was related with followers’ commitment, satisfaction and motivation (Lowe, Kroeck, & Sivasubramaniam, 1996). Such positive attitudes of the followers can only be realized should the leader do what was preached by displaying trustworthiness, care and concern towards its fellow workers, being honest with its dealings and most importantly, making decision on a basis on fairness and principled center values (Brown & Trevino, 2006).




How ethical leadership coupled with principles and morals will affect the followers and the organization: the domino effect

The importance of morality and ethics in leadership is very straight forward. One of leader’s key roles is to make sound decision, supported with morality and ethics that will in turn bring forth positive outcome benefitting his followers and organization. Ethical decision making is said to be one of the longest standing key decision making process that was scrutinized and practiced (Hill, 1986).


There’s a Chinese saying that if the top beam of a building is not straight, the lower beam of the building will also be crooked. This theory applies to leaders and followers as well. Leaders being the top beam and followers being the bottom beam. Therefore, it is essential for the leader to set forth good positive examples and carry the right values and identity.


There is a special relationship between worker’s perception of an ethical climate in the organization and its commitment in the organization (Cullen, Paboteeah, & Victor, 2003). In addition, some other research shows that ethical climate dimension, influenced the ethical decision making of the organization’s managers (Flannery & May, 2000). On the positive note, ethical climate dimensions are not positively associated to the motivation to lie (Ross & Robertson, 2000). As such, these important findings do provide us with an insight on how ethical climate dimension can positively influence the right values in ensuring positive culture within an organization.



Managers and leaders: How ethics, moral and values principles steer them on their daily tasks

As the essay is particularly aimed at differentiating leadership and managers with ethics, morality and value principle a leader should have, there is an important relation among becoming a manager or leader. These people needs to have a certain degree of positive traits coupled with ethics in order to carry out task effectively. Becoming someone who is highly effective, we need to understand which area of effectiveness are managers and leaders pin pointing at? Is it solely tasks orientated or relationship orientated? Although both leaders and managers have different work attitudes towards their job, both leaders and managers must possess ethics in their work with high morality and principles for them to gain respect from their subordinates and their followers in the long run. These principles and morality guide them to make sound humane decision, preventing them from abusing their powers and caused harm to people. Managers and leaders can never be separated on the topic of the basic intrinsic or moral principles and work ethics.






I hope this piece of analytical essay intrigue readers with my workplace experience and my standpoint. My standpoint is pretty clear in sense where managers are also leaders as there is no separation of roles in organizations although their attitudes and mindset towards work is very different. Ancient Chinese literature that was used for more than five thousands year was used in this analytical essay to support my arguments that managers can also be leader role. I also discuss that ethical leadership with morality cannot achieve higher effectiveness should other ingredient stated in the Five Factor Model is missing. Leadership is an extremely wide topic where different factors makes one a good and effective leader. It is a combination of positive traits coupled with other external factors such as the quality of followers. Our sole purpose to understand the concept of leadership is to enable us to create value for our organization and our society, and most importantly to lead with the correct mindset and purpose.

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