Leader or Manager – False Dilemma

Rogerio Bonatto Creative Thinking, Organisational Development, Project Management Leave a Comment

Leader or Manager – False Dilemma


“A false dilemma occurs when an argument offers two options and ignores, either purposefully or out of ignorance, other alternatives.”

Presenting statements into “black and white” terms is a common occurrence of this logical fallacy. It is so spread that a Google search for “leader or manager” returned about 237,000 results.

The Facts

The dichotomy encourages the readers to choose between two options as they were mutually exclusive. In many cases, authors even induce the readers to believe that being a leader is right, being a manager is wrong.

It is interesting to notice that a formal MBA course may include many “Management” papers (Information Technology Management, Operations Management, Human Resources Management, Marketing Management, Project Management, Accounting Management, Change Management, Procurement Management…) and, in the same course, a Leadership paper presenting “management” as an outdated (or wrong) approach, to be replaced by more effective “leadership” concepts. This idea is usually supported by a complete set of peer-reviewed articles and worldwide accepted bibliography.

Why the issue deserves a second look?

Leadership supposes the existence of well-defined objectives. Long-term and widely accepted objectives are the most suitable ones.

In such case, leaders are the ones that inspire and guide other people to cooperate, aiming to achieve the objectives.

Among the instruments that can support or improve the intention to collaborate, we can comment: leadership, management skills, authority and power.

Pure Leadership

There is plenty of information related to leadership, but in this context, it is important to remember that:

  • Leadership is highly dependent on trust, that requires a long time to be earned, and the existence of successful past examples.
  • Charisma, good communication and a confident behaviour help a lot.
  • The leader should be known and be used to deal with antagonism and resistance to change.

Leadership & Management skills

We can observe a strong relationship between leadership and management in several aspects:

  • For sure leadership can be considered a talent, but it can be learned, trained or practised similarly to other management skills.
  • A leader should be able to identify objectives, devise strategies, establish a plan of action.
  • In the implementation phase, leaders should know how to deal with cross-functional teams, manage time, evaluate risks, costs, identify and apply resources, make good use of people abilities.
  • Having the knowledge about the objectives and the issue under discussion is also essential. We cannot imagine a leader that does not know the objectives he is trying to reach and how to get there.

Example: A CIO resigned and the CFO assumed as the acting CIO. Even having strong leadership talent, we cannot expect this guy to be immediately considered a leader by the ICT people due to the lack of effective management skills in the area.

Leadership & Authority

It really helps if the leader has a good degree of authority, such as:

  • The right to make decisions;
  • A hierarchical superiority over the project team;
  • An official designation as the team leader.

Example: A recently hired but unknown CEO is dependent on his authority in order to get the expected results. It will take a long time for him be considered a leader by the community of stakeholders.

Leadership & Power

It is advantageous when the leader has enough Power to:

  • Support his formal authority;
  • Make his decisions to be accepted;
  • Influence and convince high-level stakeholders;
  • Get the resources needed to implement solutions.

Effective communication is not enough to create a successful and long-lasting leader. The outcomes of his behaviour should be measurable, and power will help the results to arise in a timely manner.

Additional comments

One way to confirm this “challenging” approach to the theory of leadership is to make a brief search about the most celebrated leaders worldwide and verify how their success was backed-up by management skills, authority and power.

Even a quick check in a LinkedIn profile can show hard skills endorsements (as project management) that go at the same level with soft skills (like team leadership), with no conflict at all.

Creative thinking (and critical thinking) means that we are expected to reflect about the validity of theoretical propositions, even when they are boxed by the models and frameworks written in books and taught in prominent business schools.


Differently from what is commonly presented, Management is not in opposition to Leadership. Management skills, Authority and Power support the leader to motivate and inspire people, aiming to conquer the common goals, to reach the shared targets.

I’ve recently published an article regarding Bottom-up Leadership. Check here.

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The Powerful Impact of Invisible Influences

Rogerio Bonatto Business Development, Creative Thinking Leave a Comment

The Powerful Impact of Invisible Influences, article published by Campbell Such

Invisible influences may be the reason that smart, thinking people make dumb (or bad) decisions and take the wrong actions.

“Just being aware they exist will help you, and your interactions with others.”Campbell Such, Bidfood

Trees talk to each other.

If you’re thinking that’s about as easy to believe as hackers having all turned into good guys, and the Internet not being full of spam, you wouldn’t be alone. But it’s true. Really? Well if that’s the case, how do they communicate? The short answer is they do it through their roots. But it gets even stranger…and it involves fungus.

Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology and teacher at the University of British Columbia, used radio isotopes to track the movement of food (sugars) from a tree. They discovered the isotopes turned up in the sugars in nearby trees. And after testing with many trees, found it did not just turn up in one nearby tree or two, but up to 47 other trees. What they’d stumbled onto is that a forest is like a huge interconnected community. And they then found that it wasn’t a direct connection from root to tree root… instead there was a special microscopic tubular fungus that supported the transport of the sugars between the roots of different trees.

Trees have evolved a mutually beneficial relationship with fungus to exchange food and send chemical messages. The fungus extracts the minerals from the rocks and soil and supply them to trees so they can grow and flourish.

In return, the trees provide the fungus with the sugars it needs to grow, that it can’t make by itself. The fungus acts like a cross between a telephone line and a pipeline. The researchers had discovered a hidden network of communications and food sharing across a forest. They’ve even given it a name…don’t laugh…the Wood Wide Web.

And like the invisible impact on the forest, of the trees’ concealed root systems and their secret relationship with fungus, things we can’t see, touch or feel have a significant influence on our lives. Let’s dig below the surface…

First let’s define invisible influences

Invisible influences are the things that happen below the level of our conscious awareness to shape our wishes, needs, desires and decisions. Because we’re not aware of them, we all tend to struggle to accept or believe they even exist. Yet they are there, nudging us, virtually all the time.

“A hot drink handed to a potential customer in a first meeting will influence them to think of you as a warm person.”
We think we make all our decisions rationally, logically, consciously

However, that’s not how we work in reality. Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow found we use two ways of thinking and making decisions – the fast, automatic, unconscious System 1 thinking and the slow deliberate, conscious System 2 thinking. Almost all the time we’re in System 1 thinking.

The vast majority of our decisions are made with no conscious thought. We believe we make conscious rational decisions. Yet many of those decisions may well have been nudged by something we’re unaware of. And disconcertingly, those that understand how, can use knowledge of these invisible influences to manipulate us.

Here are examples of how we’re influenced, but would never suspect

1. A hot drink (coffee, tea etc.) handed to a potential customer in a first meeting will influence them to think of you as a warm person. So don’t be giving them a cold drink – even in summer.

2. Seeing a video of someone walking slowly can affect how fast you walk after seeing it– you’ll tend to walk more slowly than normal.

3. Adding a high priced premium option to a list of products or services, makes it far less likely you’ll buy the cheapest option, than if the premium option didn’t exist. (Note that the vendor may never even sell any of the premium priced option but it raises the average sale value.) Keep an eye out for this when buying.

4. In an experiment, participants had to unscramble a list of random words and then hand in the results to the examiner. The words weren’t random – half the lists contained mostly positive words and the other half contained mostly negative words.

As part of the setup, the examiner was always “busy in a conversation” with someone else. If the unscrambled words were mostly negative, it significantly reduced the time the student was prepared to wait before interrupting the examiner to hand in their paper, compared to the people that unscrambled happy, uplifting and positive words. We are primed subconsciously by the people, words and emotions around us – you can use this to help yourself and others if you chose yours carefully.

5. In an experiment in the US, the server in a restaurant gave some customers two mints. For other customers, the server gave a single mint with the bill and then started to walk away. Just before leaving they turned back (as if having a sudden change of mind) and offered another mint. Both sets of customers got two mints but in the second approach the average tip increased by a massive 50 per cent over the first. A powerful ploy that works because it makes you feel special.

6. Counterintuitively, fewer choices make it easier for you to make a decision to buy. In an experiment, at a supermarket sampling, some customers were offered six jam varieties to sample. Others were offered 24 varieties. The result was 10 times more sales by those that sampled at the six variety counter. Who says more choice is better?

Read more: Campbell Such on ‘the distractions and biases that seduce us when we make decisions’

7. After unsuspecting eye witnesses observed a low speed collision (it was a setup) between two cars, a researcher asked them what speed the cars collided. Her question was different for each eye witness. The question was: “What speed were the cars going when they bumped (or hit, or smashed) into each other?” The option she used to ask the question influenced the speed they witnesses reported. The more emotive the term (eg smashed versus bumped) the faster the estimate. So it is easy to influence an eyewitness’ answers with the way a question is asked – ouch. How does emotive copy affect our perception of all sorts of other things?

8. Vendors often find their customers have trouble deciding between two equal cost alternatives. Let’s call them Option1 and Option 2. It turns out that adding a third option (that’s an inferior but lower cost version of Option 1) will make it much more likely you’ll choose Option 1. If you notice this, remove the inferior option and see if that makes a difference to your decision – of course the inferior option may have already influenced your and removing it may be too late to make a difference

9.The price people would pay for a box of Belgian chocolates grew after they had been asked to write down a pair of high (compared to low) numbers from their Social Security number. It’s called anchoring, which is used widely to set a negotiation starting point by vendors to influence the price you will pay for something.

10. After drawing a set of either long, or short, lines on a piece of paper, a researcher asked high school students to estimate the length of the Mississippi River. Those who had drawn long lines estimated the length as much longer than those who had drawn short lines. “Who would have picked there’d be an influence between two so apparently unrelated things?

“Counterintuitively, fewer choices make it easier for you to make a decision to buy”
Expectations may be the most powerful influence of all

If you take nothing else out of this, please read this one carefully and try to absorb the astonishing power of expectation. Let’s define expectation. Or perhaps what it is not. It’s not a belief, e.g. I believe I can win the race, make a million dollars, or learn Spanish. The meaning of expectation here is absolute certainty – e.g. that’s a chair, that’s a fridge, that’s the sun. It’s not that I believe it’s a chair….it is a chair. There is no belief – it is truth. That object is just completely and unquestionably a chair. And this also refers to any unquestioned expectation people have of others: eg they are talented or hopeless; intelligent or stupid; will be a doctor or has no chance of success in life.

So here’s how that plays out in real life with real people.

A specially managed trial was undertaken with experienced soldiers who had been individually picked for elite military leadership training camp. The camp commander told the trainers (falsely) that a special psych assessment of each soldier had taken place. This assessment rated the soldiers as high leadership potential (H), average potential (A) or unknown (U).

The special psych assessment was a sham. What actually happened was that after they interviewed the trainee soldiers, the assessors randomly put either an H, A or U on each soldier’s file before giving it to the team trainers. The team trainers had no idea the letters on the soldiers’ files were randomly assigned.

These team trainers were highly experienced long serving elite trainers. The result after the three-month training program was that the soldiers who had been randomly assigned “high” leadership potential, massively outperformed the others. Not just academically and technically, but also across the full range of physical skills such as target shooting. The expectation of the team trainers (who had no idea of the experiment) was the only variable that made the difference.

That is a stunning result and has massive implications in our modern society. What does that mean for parents and their expectations of their kids, for teachers and their students all through school, for bosses and their employees? Could it be a factor in the overrepresentation of certain ethnic groups in jail? How might expectations influence the success, or otherwise, of your direct reports and their teams?

Read more: The CIO’s secret to great conversations

Ask yourself, ‘why did I make that decision?’, ‘why did I just buy that?’, ‘why am I doing what I’m doing?’
Struggling to believe? You’re not alone

We like to feel we have control over things. You may be thinking, “Invisible influences may affect others, but not me.” That’s perfectly normal. The mistake we tend to make is to think we’re not affected. But we are affected. We’re all affected. Many times a day, blissfully unaware of when it’s happening. Invisible influences may be the reason that smart, thinking people make dumb (or bad) decisions and take the wrong actions.

Russell Granger in his book 7 Triggers to Yes says: “For all the people most of the time and most of the people all the time we are in automatic mode.”

We’ve evolved to be like that. We have a three-part brain where there’s been a billion years of the reptilian (survival) brain development, 500 million years of limbic (emotional) brain development and only 10 million years of your Neocortex (conscious) development. Your conscious brain is still such a baby. It’s like expecting you to know more than your grandfather when you’re only three months old. No wonder it’s so hard to fight.

It’s tough to even recognise when it’s happening, let alone fight it

The best defence is awareness. Awareness is the flashlight to help you see more clearly through the thick fog of invisible influences, to minimise their impacts and possibly even get them working for you.

Just being aware they exist will help you, and your interactions with others. In your teams, the broader business and in your personal life.

To summarise
  • Invisible influence is all around us.
  • Expectations may be the most powerful influence – positive or negative.
  • They’re difficult to perceive and resist but awareness is the best way to shine a light through its fog.
  • Awareness can help reduce the chances we’re influenced by others wielding it.
Read more: Bidfood CIO Campbell Such: ‘Overconfidence is like the chameleon that’s difficult to see’

Like tree roots and fungus working their hidden communication magic beneath the forest floor, we can’t easily see the powerful impact of invisible influence unless we dig beneath the surface. We need to stay alert and open to potential invisible influences in our lives. If we do this, we have a much higher chance of making better decisions. And we have a much better chance of winkling out the shysters that would manipulate us to buy, do, sell, feel and react when it’s not in our best interest.

So, stay alert for the signs and situations of invisible influence. Start to ask yourself, “why did I make that decision?”, “why did I just buy that?”, “why am I doing what I’m doing”, “why am I feeling like I feel?” … and you might surprise yourself with how often you spot a sneaky influence. As B J Millar M.D. says, “Don’t believe everything you think


(This article was originally published in the CIO Magazine – NZ on 12 May, 2017.)

Campbell Such is GM IT for Bidfood, a wholesale food distribution business and a top 50 company in NZ. He has a varied career in New Zealand and internationally, working in technology, management and roles in marketing and sales. Reach him at Campbell.such@bidfood.co.nz and through his blog.

What do you think? Post your ideas in the comments area.

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Cannibalisation in the Production Line

Rogerio Bonatto Operations Management, Supply Chain Leave a Comment

Cannibalisation in the Production Line


It is easy to find comprehensive documentation on ways to reduce the inventory shortage risk, but what to do if a supply chain snag materializes?

  • Stop the production line?
  • Continue the production and deliver incomplete/untested products (if it is technically feasible)?
  • Identify alternative means to feed the assembly line?

The first two options are the most frequently adopted, with predictable consequences in the industry. Alternative solutions might arise from any kind of creative thinking but will also require an implementation process and a cautious evaluation of possible adverse consequences.

There are many approaches that emphasise the efficiency of production processes, such as MRP (Materials Requirement Planning), Kanban (JIT – Just in Time) and OPT (Optimised Production Technology), but, on the other hand, they are not focused on the mitigation of inventory shortage risk.


Cannibalisation is one of the alternative solutions. In this context, the word “cannibalization” means the utilisation of parts/subsystems coming from other sources, as a replacement for the missing items. These are some possible sources of cannibalisation:

Missing part
  • Other production lines that use the same part number.
  • Existing kits already prepared for future use in the same production line.
  • Stock units completed but not yet sold.
  • Production units that are not available for commercialization due to other reasons, such as:
    • units that were not approved on quality or acceptance tests.
    • units that have other missing parts.

How to implement

The implementation process and the analysis of possible consequences should consider:

  • The configuration control, which will influence the in-service-support, guarantees and future product recalls.
  • The extra work-hours required to perform the transfer (considering the work on the donor asset, the item inspection and the work on the receiver asset).
  • The need for additional functionality, quality and acceptance tests after the installation.
Assembly Line

Given that the decision regarding the use of cannibalised parts involves stakeholders from different business areas (operations, supply chain, procurement, QA, finance…) the suggestion is to create a cross-functional team to manage this alternate solution.

Cannibalisation that foresees the use of second-hand parts during maintenance procedures requires additional actions. In this case, safety is a relevant concern, as well as the control of service life and the revision requirements. A new article will address this type of cannibalisation.


It does not matter if the academic models/frameworks do not mention cannibalisation in the production line. There is a real life out there, inventory shortages continue to occur, and cannibalisation is a valid workaround. Be prepared to execute it the right way.

Do you think cannibalisation should be avoided at any cost? Post your ideas in the comments area.

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Objective & Subjective Procurement

Rogerio Bonatto Creative Thinking, Procurement, Project Management 2 Comments

Objective & Subjective Procurement

The Problem

When preparing a complex source selection process, it is important to develop the bid evaluation methodology. How to balance objective and subjective criteria?

Despite how rigorous and objective the requirements are, the concept of evaluation implies the existence of a strong subjective component. Subjective, in this case, refers to the personal opinions, feelings and perspectives that influence the decision-making process.

Explaining the Complexity

Presently, it is common to blame poor decisions to subjectivity. Some people seem to confuse the concepts: saying that objective is right; subjective is wrong. Examining the issue, it is useful to analyse the following statements:

  • Subjectivity is present not only during the analysis of proposals, but since preparation of the requirements and the evaluation process;
  • The quantitative approach is normally associated to objectivity, while the qualitative aspect is commonly linked to subjectivity;
  • It is easy to objectively quantify and compare stated performance with requirements, while it is subjective to assess how the differences between two offers will affect the achievement of objectives;
  • On most occasions, there is no direct relation between numbers and results and, for instance, a company can possibly increase sales 100% with only a 20% reduction in price;
  • Risks and external threats and opportunities are very hard to predict in a numeric, factual or objective way.

How to Proceed

Due to the combination of subjective and objective aspects involved in each procurement process, the use of multi-criteria decision methodologies should be considered. Especially when dealing with high-value or strategic acquisitions, a rational decision-making process is critical to choosing the best solution, equipment or supplier.

There are many well-developed methodologies that can (and should) be tailored to the procurement project. Among a dozen options, one of the most interesting is the AHP* model – Analytic Hierarchy Process – that fits well in very complex competition situations.


  • Despite the clamour for objective decision-making, we must remember that mandatory requirements and straight procedures do not create an objective assessment;
  • A selection process is only a way to control and set limits for a subjective evaluation;
  • Subjectivity is inherent the evaluation, which is why the recommendation for rational decision-making is: before you announce the decision, consider all objective aspects, but sleep on it first, and rely on your sense of intuition (trust your gut-feeling);
  • Finally, consider the citation:
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”Albert Einstein(?)

How do you suggest to format the subjective conclusions in a report? Could we find a way “monetise” the result, adjusting the value of each offer? Please, post your ideas in the comments area.

*Suggested reading: “Decision by Objectives: How to Convince Others That You are Right”, by Ernest H Forman and Mary Ann Selly.

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Bottom-up Leadership

Rogerio Bonatto Creative Thinking, Organisational Development, Project Management 3 Comments

Bottom-up leadership goes beyond influencing


Literature gives large space to traditional top-down (hierarchical) leadership, followed by lateral (peer to peer) leadership. Few authors briefly refer to concepts such as self-leadership and bottom-up leadership.

When discussing upward leadership, most authors suggest a humble position, citing: collaboration, influencing or even “green” leadership. This kind of approach is not very useful when we need the projects approved, the solution implemented, the things done in due time.

Creating trust is the most important condition for successful leadership. The immediate problem is that building trust requires time, extensive relationship and successful previous experiences. Other supportive conditions to effective leadership are power and authority, which are normally associated with hierarchical leadership. How to build power and authority in a bottom-up environment?

Exercise Technical Authority

Based on more than a decade working (and trying to sell ideas) as a Project Manager in a highly hierarchical institution – the Brazilian Air Force – I can assure that the power that derives from the technical authority is significant. I remember that, when presenting the suggested winner of an international bidding, I entered the meeting room with a whole set of documents (hundreds of pages). It was interesting to observe the attendants assuming that the suggestion would be supported by a huge amount of information and analysis. A well-prepared technical report, followed by a convincing presentation is powerful. Only in rare occasions the authorities or high-level stakeholders would have the knowledge, the will or the expertise to repel a technical proposal presented by a programme manager, experts or reliable advisers. The most common situation is that the decision-maker would stick to the suggested solution, feeling comfortable to decide. But, what if the bottom-up leader expects to face a stubborn boss or director?

Encourage reflective thinking

In such case, presenting a complete and structured solution will not succeed. We can found an answer in the following definition of leadership:

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want to be done because he wants to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Present the know facts, internal strengths and weaknesses, external opportunities and threats, benefits and costs; everything the decision-maker needs to build his opinion. In other words, make the high-level stakeholder think it is his idea. Based on the information you have just given, the authority will decide, favouring the option he now wants. You will not receive the credits for being the author of the strategy (no credits would be attributed if the idea were simply discarded), but there will be a significant contribution to the success of the project and the company/institution.


Finally, we can consider that bottom-up leadership is a natural path to innovation, due to the fact that high-level stakeholders, contrary to their speech, prioritise the maintenance of the “status quo”. I believe that true leaders should support upward leadership, for the reason that…

“Leaders don’t create followers.
They create more leaders.
Tom Peters

What do you think? Please, post your ideas in the comments area.

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