According to a recent Gallup survey, only 15% of the global workforce is “engaged” as most people “hate their job and especially their boss”. The reason for this disenchantment with people managers is not hard to find: Leadership requires character development but that is not on the curriculum of any management school. If you search for “character development” on Google, you will find articles on how to develop fictional characters for movies or plays, but practically none that pertain to the development of a person’s moral character.

Management programs teach their students “skills” such as market analysis, advertising, marketing, and finance. Nobody teaches how to develop a strong character. But character is the most fundamental ingredient of trust and bonding in human relationships.

When character development is deemphasized, then subordinates become cynical about their leaders and stop giving their full enthusiasm to their work. In countries such as Japan, where worker loyalty is the highest, workforce “engagement” is at its lowest at 3%. Therefore, the fact that people don’t leave the organization means nothing. What matters is that they no longer care for the organization’s goals. Their loyalty to the organization comes at the cost of significantly reduced engagement with the organization’s goals.

Unfortunately, since character development is such a neglected subject, all organizations promote people based on the short-term results they bring, rather than based on the assessment of their character. Thereby, successful people with a bad character get into leadership positions, from where they destroy the organization’s morale, jeopardizing, in the long run, the very existence of the organization.

Most people think that character is such a nebulous topic that it can never be described, let alone developed. So, in this post, I will try to highlight several easily spotted character traits that distinguish true leaders with a strong moral fiber from managers who are in leadership roles although they lack the moral traits necessary for good leadership. Since the leader’s moral character affects the subordinates’ “engagement”, which affects an organization’s success, moral character is directly related to an organization’s success. Rules and regulations, processes and systems, are hardly a substitute for this human ingredient. When it goes missing, it produces a declining organization.

Here are some of the traits that distinguish leaders (with a strong character) and managers (who are in leadership roles but lack character).

A leader is one who commands respect, a manager is one who demands respect.

A leader creates other independently thoughtful leaders, but a manager creates subservient sycophantic subordinates.

A leader sets the example that, if everyone followed, would make the world a better place. A manager sets an example that, if everyone followed, would make the world much worse.

A leader blazes the trail that others can follow to be just like him. A manager erects hurdles against anyone else becoming like him.

A leader wants many more leaders like him. A manager doesn’t want anyone to replace him.

A leader selectively validates his followers to uplift them. A manager selectively validates those subordinates who validate him.

A leader often sacrifices his interests for others. A manager often sacrifices other’s interests for himself.

A leader always gives more than he takes. A manager always takes more than he gives.

A leader controls people by creating inspiration in their hearts and minds. A manager controls people by creating a threat to their bodily survival.

A leader operates on the principle of self-actualization. A manager operates on the basis of fear and greed.

A leader elevates the soul to get quantifiable results. A manager degrades the soul for measurable results.

A leader teaches general adaptable principles with the freedom to adapt them intelligently, while a manager advocates inviolable rules and laws.

A leader is self-reliant, and a manager relies on the people he controls. If nobody does anything, the leader still produces value. A manager is useless without the people he manages; if those people do nothing, then the manager produces no value.

A leader is truthful and authentic. A manager is deceptive and manipulative.

A leader values truth over prestige. A manager values prestige over truth.

A leader is kind, caring, and compassionate. A manager is selfish, cruel, and indifferent.

A leader thinks about long-term good for everyone. A manager thinks about short-term success for himself.

Most people cry when a leader leaves. Most people are happy to see a manager go.