Manager, Leader or Fire Extinguisher

A few days ago as I logged into my Linkedin account, someone had posted 2 different pictures of a fire. The caption on the left said managers light a fire under people and the caption on the right said leaders light a fire in people.  

Image courtesy of pakorn at

Besides managers and leaders, I’d like to add another to the list and we’ll call this group of people fire extinguishers.

Image courtesy of supakitmod at

One definition of a manager is a person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or a part, division, or phase of it.

When a job or task needs to be completed, a manager lights a fire under the employees to accomplish the mission. He or she may do this by reminding the workers of their role, bonus, possibility of being fired or a number of other ways. Some even become verbally abusive.

A leader lights a fire in those around him or her by helping them see the big picture or the vision of the direction the organization intends to go. The fire becomes internal and those who work with the leader do not have to be reminded of what they need to do. They do it with a red hot passion. They appreciate the wisdom, energy and expertise of the leader.

We have all seen people who are fire extinguishers. They make snide comments to fellow employees. “Why are you working so hard?” “You know these people don’t care nothing about you.” “Who are you trying to impress?” “I see that you’re trying to make brownie points.” “You do realize, they are only paying you minimum wage.” Fire extinguishers do their best to extinguish every flame in those around them. They have little and possibly no ambition and they don’t want those around them to show desire either.

When I was a young man, the minimum wage was low in comparison to today’s wage. An older man told me, “Son, if the man is paying you three dollars an hour, you give him at least five dollars an hour worth of work. You will never move up in life if you only do the bare essentials of your job.” This principle has stayed with me for approximately forty years.   

Who are your close associates? If they try to extinguish your fire, be kind to them but pick some new associates.

In the comment section below, share your story of how a leader, manager or fire extinguisher affected you.

I’d like to ask you, “Are you a manager, leader or fire extinguisher?”


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       James Barber

       Author of The Networking Guru