Bob Blair: Understanding the Difference Between Leadership & Management

I recently had a chance to ask some of my old friends and reps to contribute a guest article to my blog. “What do you want us to write about?” they asked. “How about something you’ve learned in our years working together?” I said. This one was written by Bob Blair, an industrial engineer I frequently worked with at the different companies I led.

When I was 39 years old, I started a management consulting company that I operated for 35 years. This was after working for various companies, including becoming the VP of Manufacturing at the 16th largest company in Canada with complete manufacturing responsibility for nine converting plants and a softwood lumber mill.

My consulting assignments took me to different companies located all over the world: Canada, United States, France, Germany, China, Japan, and Australia. Not bad for a kid from Glasgow, Scotland.

One of my first assignments was in Cambridge, Ontario, working for the president, David Marshall. The assignment ended up being extremely successful, thanks in large part to the relationship we had.

Photo of Bob Blair. He was able to help me see the difference between leadership and management
Bob Blair
As a management consultant, I found that in many of the situations I went into, people wanted me to fail. The president may have thought he knew more than me, or two or three guys felt that they could do the job and didn’t need me at all. They put up with me, fought with me, and resisted the changes I recommended.

We meshed so well on our management style, because we shared a lot of the same beliefs: Management is a team game that requires attainable goals. Also, we agreed to make no decisions until all reliable facts were gathered, and we agreed on transparency on all aspects of the work.

This applied to the training I gave where David was deeply involved in all aspects of the training, the programs, and their results.

As a result of our work together, our business relationship continued for almost 30 years with much success.

While I was doing all the hard work, David was fiddling about with all the easy stuff: dealing with family ownership of a company; managing finances, sales, and general administration; ensuring all facets of the company ran smoothly, from manufacturing through back office support. But that’s how it goes.

In the long run, the only thing that counted were the results. As one of the few who knew the actual results, I can tell you they were outstanding, and that’s thanks to David’s understanding of, and commitment to, the work.

As someone who has been around industry for a long time, I can tell you that those results could only have been achieved by someone who understood the difference between Leadership and Management, had a feel for people, hard work and a sense of humor, plus some of that rare commodity called, Common Sense.

All in all, David has been a great guy to work with and that comes from a SCOT, saying that about a ‘B’ ENGLISHMAN.

Photo credit: Bob Blair (Used with Permission)

Author: David Marshall
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.