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22. On Leading and Managing

Traditionally, leaders who launch organizations in our movement end up managing them. Yet, leaders and managers are very different people? What can be done to improve our movement’s leadership and management skills?

Leading vs. Managing

Contrary to popular opinion, leaders and managers are different people built of different stock. The key traits of leaders and managers are direct opposites:

  • Leaders are born and rare – managers are trained and more common
  • Leaders are loners – managers are social people
  • Leaders are less sensitive to the opinion of others – managers are very sensitive
  • Leaders are focused on themselves – managers are focused on the staff
  • Leaders are focused on their ideas – managers are focused on making these work
  • Leaders are intolerant of mediocre performers – managers improve performance
  • Leaders are less focused on budgets and timelines – managers are very focused
  • Leaders are willing to take risks – managers prefer to play it safe

Of course, most leaders and managers won’t fit every one of these traits, but the general pattern applies. Leading and managing are highly complementary roles that ideally belong in every organization.

Historically, some leaders have merely introduced new concepts that catch on and never pretend to manage the movement they have spawned. Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King readily come to mind.

Leaders who launch an actual organization, find that they must assume at least temporary management responsibilities, while developing an adequate management team. Some never let go in what we call “the founder’s syndrome.” Conversely, in the absence of a natural leader, some top managers in an organization may assume a dual role.

Qualities of Leadership

Effective leaders observe and wonder about the world around them. They question why certain things are, while others are not. They delight in challenging common assumptions about human behavior and in exploring alternatives effective leaders are passionate about their cause as a solution to world problems. They may simplify their lifestyle, with regard to relationships and material needs, to allow more time for their work. They tend to work alone, but don’t get lonely despite their limited social contacts.

Many effective leaders have reached the level of self-actualization on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (for those of you who still remember the concept from Psych 101). That means that they have high self-esteem, have dropped most of the fears and stories we all grow up with, and are not easily swayed by adversities. They are less sensitive to the opinion of others and therefore better equipped to handle personal attacks.

Because of these personal qualities, effective leaders are more willing to take calculated risks and to live with the possibility of failure and the ensuing backlash. Taking calculated risk is absolutely essential to all human progress. Just consider where our country would be today had our leaders been unwilling to proceed with the extremely risky Emancipation Proclamation, Normandy Invasion, and Cuban Missile Crisis.

Finally, because they are more focused on ideas than on people, some leaders are less attentive to personal virtues. Some of our movement’s early leaders smoked, drank to excess, and even ate animal flesh. Nearly all were womanizers, as part of their 1980s culture.

Qualities of Management

Effective program managers have two key roles:

  • To structure the assigned program and its individual objectives, with detailed timelines and adequate personnel, financial, and other resources
  • To make sure that the program progresses in compliance with the plan

This requires being good with people:

  • Earning the trust, respect, and loyalty of the program team
  • Assuming the best about each team member and making them live up to it
  • Keeping members informed of their respective roles and responsibilities in the program
  • Resolving conflicts within the team
  • Empowering team members to assume greater responsibilities
  • Being aware and helpful with every team member’s personal situation

It also requires being good with numbers – measuring progress and staying on budget.

And, it requires knowing how to “get things done” (which we covered in the last essay).

How Are We Doing?


Ours is the youngest and least experienced movement on the American social scene. For the first thirty years, we had to promote our vegan and animal rights messages with a few underpaid staffers and many local volunteers.

When the big donor funds came in about ten years ago, we simply raised staff salaries, then hired all our volunteers. We insisted that our managers come up through our volunteer ranks and failed to bring in experts from outside our movement. At the same time, a number of our leaders and managers retired from our movement, frequently under personal attack from others.

All this has greatly diminished our ability to create and implement new
effective programs.

One solution is to be kinder to our leaders and managers. Another is to provide additional management training. A third is to hire experienced managers who agree with our vegan vision from outside our movement.

(Our next essay will address the publications and events that have brought our movement together through the years.)

Disclaimer 
“The views expressed in this blog are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the
Farm Animal Rights Movement or the Animal Rights National Conference.”

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1 thought on “22. On Leading and Managing”

  1. Excellent analysis, so far as it goes, but there is more to be said. Thirty to forty years ago, as mentioned above, most AR/vegan organizations were led by leaders, with few managers in sight, and many of the leaders had the usual character defects of “leader” personalities. Also as mentioned, as money came into the cause, practically the whole original “leadership” echelon retired/died/were pushed aside, etc., in favor of managerial types who were chiefly good at public relations & fundraising. What also happened, though, is that many of the “managers” not only brought along the usual vices associated with management, but also acquired the bad habits of the old “leaders,” while activists and donors (who are usually the people who were activists earlier in life) failed to insist that the people purporting to represent them (and the animals) demonstrate high personal standards of morality all the way around to reinforce their credibility in demanding that the public behave in a more moral way toward animals. In this, the trajectory of the AR/vegan causes has significantly differed from the trajectory of the mid-19th century humane movement, which managed to grow for two generations before experiencing a wave of scandals comparable to that experienced by AR/vegan causes every few years since the late 1980s. Currently, and fortunately, the growth, expansion, and marketplace success of AR/vegan ideas is driven chiefly by for-profit business entrepreneurs, who have their own set of weaknesses, similar to those of nonprofit managers. This is well and good, but there is definitely still a need for leaders who are both dynamic and strongly ethical, young enough to appeal to the millennial and post-millennial generations, and they need good examples & mentoring from those of us who are old enough to remember when the cause was little more than Alex Hershaft tabling & Henry Spira shouting on the steps of the NYC Museum of Natural History.

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