I knew I had messed up. I had lost my way. This was not leadership.

Leadership Lost

I was working in an organization where one of my primary duties was to mentor others. Most of my time was spent inspiring others to achieve greatness. I motivated, encouraged, and challenged people to reach their potential. This was my kind of leadership. I loved it.

Let’s face it, it’s one thing to own a business and enjoy personal success, but there is something very special about having the opportunity to invest in the lives of others – employees, customers, friends, even strangers. And it can be humbling to have people look at you as a leader. Especially when you mess up.

Perhaps you can relate.

Somewhere along the way I had stopped leading and had begun manipulating people. The line between the two is very thin, and I had stepped over it.

Leading people and manipulating people can be quite similar. They both:

  • recognize the abilities, skills, and strengths of others.
  • compliment those abilities, skills, and strengths and encourage others to act on them.
  • influence the behaviour of others.
  • have a goal in mind and put their energy into guiding others towards that goal.
  • can be defined as, “influencing others to act.

And yet, while I’ve met a lot of people who strive to demonstrate leadership within their organizations and their industry, very few want to be seen as manipulating people.

The Difference Between Leadership and Manipulation

For all the similarities, the major difference between leadership and manipulation is found within. It’s in what’s motivating our behaviour. It’s in our heart.

These days, I have the privilege of working with people who know they’re meant for more. I guide them through the process of becoming sophisticated leaders who can transform the face of business. But, I recognize how easy it is to slip from leading others to manipulating them into what I want them to achieve.

As a leader, I ask the following questions in order to protect my heart from moving me into the realm of manipulation.

  • Am I focused on my goals or the client’s goals?  In order to lead effectively, we must take the time to understand where people are and where they want to go (not to mention why they want to go there!). The leader’s job is to help the disciple in achieving his or her goals. In contrast, manipulators are only concerned with themselves. Followers are there to help them accomplish their goals.
  • Am I speaking the truth or simply saying whatever will get me the win?  Manipulators love to stroke egos. They’ll say whatever is necessary to keep people in line. Leaders recognize that sometimes followers need to be challenged in order to accomplish their goals. Graciously speaking the truth to someone – even at the risk of upsetting them – is sometimes necessary.
  • Am I genuinely excited for my client’s success or am I secretly jealous of them?  When an employee that you’ve been training lands the big contract, do you celebrate with them? Leaders love to honour the success of others without trying to join in the spotlight.

Leading others can be one of the most satisfying things you can do. But, it’s critical that you monitor yourself and make sure that what motivates you is the success of those you lead. Only then is it truly rewarding.


Rob Dale | Ottawa Business Coach

Rob DaleBusiness Coach Ottawa

Business Coach

“Your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give.”

When it comes to business, I have one primary passion: to help entrepreneurs recognize and achieve their potential. I provide clients with powerful tools and valuable advice to streamline their path to success. And I help my clients build their businesses into the kinds of organizations that far exceed their expectations. My clients frequently express gratitude and relief, because they finally feel like there’s someone in their corner who gets them. Gets what they’re trying to do. Someone who’s got the tools to help them overcome the obstacles they’re facing.