Great manager vs. great leader

Guest post by Ben Flajole, Evening MBA 2014 and Evening MBAA VP of Alumni Affairs at the Foster School of Business

“If you’re up at a whiteboard listing all of the things that make a good leader, I don’t think many of you would put ‘4.0 student,’ right?” With that remark, Eric Sprunk, VP of Merchandising and Product at Nike, saw most, if not all, of the crowd breathe a sigh of relief. As the featured speaker at the MBA Perspectives on Leadership event on January 10, Sprunk spent time discussing what, if not perfect grades, makes people great leaders.

Sprunk’s presentation on leadership at Nike highlighted some key differences between being a good manager and a good leader. To him, a good leader creates an environment in which people are encouraged and allowed to achieve their best work every day; a good manager makes sure the employees have what they need to be able to do that. He then referenced the traits he considers necessary for good leadership, which were defined by a student in a prior session as “soft skills”:

  • Courage: having authenticity and honesty in your interactions with others.
  • Energy: bringing great enthusiasm to your team and never asking for more from them than you are willing to give yourself.
  • Balance: knowing that burnout is real and that feeling like a good son, daughter, dad, mom, husband, and/or wife is crucial for producing your best work.

Ideally, as Sprunk stated, we’re able to be great managers and leaders simultaneously. However, that’s not always the case. While good managers generate good results, it is often good leaders that produce the best results by leading with vision, strategy, and having and exercising the traits listed above.

Watch the video below for more highlights from his talk.

Eric Sprunk, VP of Merchandising and Product at Nike from the Foster School of Business.

The MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series is organized by the Full-time and Evening MBAA and the Foster School’s Alumni team.

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