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With a tender heart, a drive for learning and a gift for sharing, Margaret brings her years of experience as a licensed professional counselor and a woman of faith to all her writings. Her insights and biblical understanding bring home principles we all can use - no matter the circumstances we are in.


Management or Leadership?

By Margaret Cook, M.Ed., Licensed Professional Counselor, Life Coach

Synopsis: There is a new option for growth in leadership and direction.

Leadership is the topic of the day. Take a look at the bookstore shelf and you will see a large collection taking shape. I confess I am an avid reader of all things about leadership. I am fascinated.

When I went to graduate school a few decades ago, we were really launching into "Career Development" theories and practices. It was really exciting and it all looked very positive. We were moving away from psychology that had the deterministic force of Freud and into psychology constructs that ranged from the warmth of Carl Rogers' unconditional positive regard to the more caustic reality therapy of Albert Ellis. It seemed exciting and positive that workers would make multiple career decisions during their adult life. We were excited to be the professionals who would help people in their careers, relationships and life using all of the tools of modern psychology.

They didn't tell us in school that employees would not feel greatly empowered by all of these changes and choices. They also didn't have any chapters on the downward spirals so many careers make in these days. No one wrote about the leaders or managers in organizations that would drive these career choices for hundreds of workers each year. These layoffs, outsourcings and offshorings can boggle the mind of most people hoping to make a comfortable living. There was little mention then in the textbooks of what I have come to understand as the "career traumas" of the American livelihood. In the 70's and 80's we started seeing layoffs, mergers and acquisitions but the workers left with severance and outplacement and services to help them transition. Now workers have fewer and fewer services and more often they have these abrupt exits from organizations.

As I read the leadership literature of our day, I consider all of that good training I had in graduate school. Leadership books tout all the ways that leaders can affirm people in their work. I wonder where these organizations are that we read about in the literature. For that matter, where are these leaders?

As a Career Coach some people come to launch from one success to the next in their life. More often I work with people who struggle to be empowered to make choices and behave in ways that reflect their values and needs authentically. Many people over the years come for help because of the leaders they are exposed to in so many organizations.

Leaders in places large and small are confronted with peculiar quandaries. They must read some of the literature that you read and that I read. But there is a disconnect between what we are READING and what we are doing as leaders. So many of the books are based on enough observation and research that the information must be credible. If that is true, why are we not practicing what everyone is preaching?

The easy answer is two words - "human nature." Maybe Sir Isaac Newton should have explained it to us the way he did gravity. There is an apple involved in both falls. When given a choice and the power to choose, what do we decide to do? If we go up, when will we come down to be with the people who are left below? If we decide to pursue our own power at the expense of a value or of someone else, we are in trouble. Basically today, all leadership seems to sink to the lowest possible level of using power to oppress someone else. Only under considerable pressure or pain will leaders attempt anymore to do what is more "noble" or more selfless. Success over the long haul depends on the leader being able to do the selfless and let the power flow to the people under them. This takes considerable strength to overcome natural tendencies initially. But, like many healthy practices, once you overcome the initial resistance and create a sustainable habit, the behavior is easy to maintain because it is successful and therefore becomes self-reinforcing.

The best leaders I know are people who we do read about in the new books. They care about the people they lead and they take risks to assure the people under them succeed. Many great leaders hire a coach. Some companies pay for Executive Coaching. Some leaders hire their own coach to make sure they have someone they can trust who helps them lead well. We need more leaders who follow the practices and patterns in the books.

If you need help becoming the kind of leader you read about, I hope you will consider hiring a coach. A coach is a professional who will help you reach your goal and succeed. If you have just been promoted, this is a great time to locate your new coach. If you have hit a career roadblock or you are ready to make a change, coaching might be a great way to take the next step toward your potential. For more information:



Copyright © November 5,2005 – Margaret Cook. All rights reserved.

Permission to use or duplicate this article is available by contacting the author at


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