JWay TechTalks Ep 1: The Difference Between Leadership and Management with Dexter Manuel

Welcome to JWAY Tech Talks, where we talk about everything from tech news and trends to anything people in tech companies should be learning about. Featuring guests from a wide variety of professions and backgrounds to share stories of great successes, including the hard lessons they learned along the way.

Euluvye: Hi, everyone. I am your host, Euluvye, and today with my co-host, Marianne. Hi, Marianne. So, in today’s pilot episode, we have our special guest, JWay Senior Project Manager Dexter Manuel, to talk about the difference between leadership and management. Hi, Dexter! 

Dexter: Hi, Euluvye. Hi, Marianne. 

Euluvye: So, Dexter, can you share with us how you start, and what’s your current role at JWay? 

Dexter: Okay. All right. So actually, I started JWay as a senior project manager, but being a project manager is actually not a plan for my career. I’m not sure if it’s actually accidental. I’m actually a technical person, so I’ve been through the usual career ladder. So I started actually as a technical support. I fixed computers, I fix hardware, software, et cetera.  So from technical support, I became a programmer or a developer. I became a database administrator. So all is technical. And then, for some reason. I was just browsing online for a job, so I saw this opening.  It’s a project coordinator. So it’s a Korean company. It’s a Korean-based company. Actually, it’s a Korean-owned company. They have an opening for a project coordinator. I was just curious. I saw the roles and the responsibility, so I got curious.  So I applied. I went to the interview. I went to a series of panel interviews, and exams. They were actually asking me about things that I don’t know about project management, but I’m a risk taker. So I just say yes.  I can do it. Yes, I can do it. So luckily, I got it. I got hired, and I started working with web designers. I started going out to meet clients, presenting to clients, managing projects, et cetera. And then I enjoyed it.  Actually, I got kind of off my path as a technical person. But when I started that kind of work, I really enjoyed it. So after that, I found another job opening. Now it’s a legit project manager opening.  That’s a company that I stayed with for eleven years. So from that company, I started to grow, was sent to training, and I went to the US a couple of times. I got my certifications, I leveled up my career. And yeah, after that company that came in.  So I really love that job. And now I started at JWay as a senior project manager, and then now I’m handling the digital team as a manager. Sorry for that long background history. 

Euluvye: Wow, that’s great. Since you mentioned that you went through the ladder, what’s your take on leadership and management?  

Dexter: Yeah, that’s good. Well, when I started my career, I met those two kinds of people, the manager, and the leader.  So there are actually two. You can differentiate them because when you say leadership, it’s about leading the team. When you say the manager, the person that manages the team. So there’s actually a really big difference between the two. Leadership is more of, like, you lead people, you praise them, you make sure that they get motivated. You use your charisma or your influence so that the team follows you. 

When it comes to management, management is actually just the work itself. You manage, you plan, you organize, so the best example of managers sometimes are the supervisors, the one that gets the planner or event organizer. Their objective is just to execute everything, they plan, then execute it. So that’s the difference between being a manager and a leader. 

For me, when you are a project manager you should have those two types of qualities, there are times when you should put on that leadership hat or management hat so that’s the balance of those two. It’s hard to just continue to manage without actually having that leadership skills because your team members would be disconnected from you. It’s difficult when you don’t know what’s happening or what’s going on with the team member, so if you’re a leader, you connect with each of those team members you talk to them you connect with them personal things, nonpersonal things, life or work-related. 

Marianne: That’s good to know the difference, have you met a person that you would consider a great leader but not a good manager, and then a good manager and not a great leader? Are there instances when that line between the two (is blurred), have you encountered some?

Dexter: yeah I did, I’m keen with those types of people, I actually have not really judged them, but at the back of my head, this is a manager. There’s this person who just wants to get things done, an executive, asks the team, can you do this, the deadline is tomorrow, the deadline is Friday, then he keeps on doing that but not knowing or not connecting the team members what they want, their career goals, what’s going on with their lives. Whenever there’s a team member gets sick or is not delivering the task, he or she doesn’t care. So it’s like the tendency that the resource or the team member gets misaligned from that person because that person doesn’t know or doesn’t connect with that person. And there’s another instance wherein a person is showing a lot of good qualities as a good leader, so he keeps on motivating and giving people opportunities. He sets a good example to the people and to the team member goes up to him to seek advice, etc – but the problem is he doesn’t have the qualities of a manager. The tendency is the project or the team gets disorganized because there’s no plan and they could not execute. They could not follow the timeline, etc, because he doesn’t have the qualities of being a manager. So yeah, I think that’s my experience for far. 

Marianne: That makes sense, make sure that you’re able to balance the management side that is work and making things done, and being a leader and having that camaraderie with your team. 

Euluvye: I heard you do training with your marketing team, so why do you think it is important to create a training program with your team or under your management?

Dexter: Well I have two objectives on that, first, that doesn’t only benefit the person, but also only benefits the whole team. Because I have gone through my training myself so the best way to absorb that training that you got in the past, is to teach it. You got the training, and from that training, you do that training yourself, because every time you repeat that training, every time you discuss it, you talk about a certain topic or whatever, you absorb it more. Second, it’s like sharing what I know, I want my team members to be a mirror of me, so whatever I learned about, my experience, my education that I learned from the past, I want to share with my team members, hopefully, they absorb it and they do it the same way what I’m doing right now and that’s really important for me is training, knowledge, it’s like going to a battle, you can’t go to a battle unequipped without something that you could use to use to fight with that battle. I think that the two objectives whenever I do my training within my team. 

Euluvye: Yeah I agree with that, but as a manager how do you keep your team members motivated especially if you do work from home?

Marianne: Yeah because you are far away from them, how do you deal with that?

Dexter: Good question, it’s really challenging actually especially when the pandemic kicks in, there’s no chance to see each other, to go to the office, talk, mingle. It’s really a challenge and I’ve been thinking of a lot of creative ways how to motivate the team. It’s either sending them something as a reward for a successful project. Involving them more, maybe through a project, I need to involve them, I need to talk to them about what they want, and what they feel, maybe not really a promise but more on helping their career growth. So yeah, actually every day, every week, whenever I start my work every Monday I usually that’s always my thought, how can I motivate them how can I make them more involved in JWay, in their work? Going back to our topic, that’s the importance of being a leader, they should follow you, they should always follow, and they should listen to you go up. It’s like a dad, that is what I actually call myself in the team, I’m the father, I need to take care of them, I need them to go up to me, to talk to me, whenever they have problems about work, life, or whatever. 

Euluvye: Wow, so you’re having a dad role in your work. That’s a double job. 

Dexter: Also, a dad bod. haha.

Marianne: In your experience, you handled a lot of people, you have seen your team grow, be successful, and the company grows, bigger and bigger, so what would you consider your biggest success as a leader or as a manager? 

Dexter: What as a leader?

Marianne: Yeah, as a leader, and then as a manager. 

Dexter: Maybe as a leader, I think the big success is keeping the team intact, so far, in most of our departments some people already left the company, and some got misaligned with the leader or from a manager, I think that’s one, and next is, my goal actually is to continue growing the team, I mean growing it making it larger. Producing leaders like me. I think so far, I was able to produce some, and right now the team is grown. We added new people last year, and I think that another target for this year, is to keep adding more people, training them, and giving them more opportunities. 

As a manager, I think more about getting everything organized. So far for the past 3 or 4 years since I stepped into Jway, everything is more organized now, each individual has their own responsibilities. They know how to manage their time, they know their roles, what they do, and which of their areas we have established best practices, we have established standards – especially in running projects, we have established procedures, and standards for each of those projects, that’s the actually important thing to keep the department in tack to keep everything moving smoothly. 

Euluvye:  Have you experienced any failure and how did you bounce back?

Marianne: Yes, because it’s not perfect all the time, right?

Dexter: Yeah I actually usually tell some of our team members I’m not superman and I’m not perfect. I have my flaws, I asked some of the team members what they think about my style or do they have something negative to tell me. I did have a couple of failures, especially in projects but that’s how actually i grew. There’s no perfect, there’s no perfect person so i have had a couple of projects in the past and  i think failure is just part of life 

Marianne: How are you able to rise above those kinds of situations?

Dexter:  You don’t have to fight back. We delivered the project – maybe not in not on the expected time, but we actually still delivered the project and provided them the support they need without any questions. In the end, the client is still happy because they got the product and delivered the project. 

Euluvye: What kind of strategies and mindset are required for this role?

Dexter: Strategies should evolve it’s more of evolution you should also accept change. You need to continue to connect with your team members, know their weaknesses, know their strengths, and understand what is going on with their life. Are there any challenges out with their personal lives as well? It’s my strategy is just to continue to connect with them every day, every week, and entice them with the work that they’re doing. The mindset is actually just being open to anything you should always treat this role as being like, as I said earlier – being a father to your children you know you need to understand what they need.

Right now my goal is to enhance their strengths and I’m very conscious of what they do. I’m very observant whenever I talk to them, I ask them about things. I set aside their weakness, I want to focus more on their strengths.

Marianne: Do you have any advice to our listeners if they want to because you know to find that balance between management and leadership so what’s your advice to the people you know who want to start becoming a leader or a manager in the IT industry?

Dexter:  Read a lot of articles online – everything is available online. You know, management and leadership can be acquired in the long run, you just have to be conscious of whatever you do. It’s actually hard for someone to easily adapt to this kind of two sets of skills. I’ve been through a lot of my with my career and it’s just really now that I’ve started to adopt these two hats for the leadership and management tools. Just continue learning and talk to your team members. What is actually important in all of these things is communication – talking to team members every day or learning. There are some team members that are hard to understand, they’re not really chatty. So you need to understand those kinds of team members and try to connect to them every day and learn more about what they want. When they will start to trust you, they start to open up more if you have that kind of connection.