Let’s focus on leadership first. On the one hand a leader sounds much more distinctive than a manager; the word itself gives a sense of pride and brings historic heroes to mind (Winston Churchil, Napoleon Bonaparte). We tend to assign special characteristics to leaders, occasionally giving them God like attributes. On the other hand we tend to dismiss some of their achievements, as they often do not bring the monetary value that manager’s work would produce. Leaders are often seen as charismatic, energetic and heroic figures. Is it enough in modern organisations? Is this bold and loud image what is needed to achieve success?
Managers are often seen as demanding, faceless robots with given authority who control the environment to achieve results. They are often perceived as uncaring and accusatory. We live in a very fast paced world and there is rarely the luxury to be just one, to have the time to develop just one of these roles. And hence a mixture of the two needs to be applied. The difficulty is that people who often apply to be managers are result driven, where often money is their motivation. From this perspective to be thrown into a pool of different personalities, the world of motivation is a real challenge. In order to establish credibility, loyalty and the buy-in, managers need to develop a real people understanding.
From Manager to Leader
There is true art in creating a unique blend between being a manager and a leader, creating a brand which will not compromise personal values. It is a challenge written into many high level positions in organisations, as well as being a part of entrepreneurial world. So how can we whisk elements of management into leadership and vice versa? It all starts with simple, yet crucial willingness to learn and experiment. The journey starts from leading self, because true leadership comes from within a person. Presuming managers want to lead effectively, they need to give up the formal tone and authoritarian control as following is a voluntary act. Every person has an individual threshold for suggestions, but generally speaking people don’t like to be told what to do. It is uninspiring, so as leaders managers need to appeal to their people, focus on their inner desires and dreams. What is more they need to communicate to the staff what is expected of them. Nevertheless one of the biggest challenges seems to be putting the group’s needs above their own. In practice this means being able to give credit to the team members and taking responsibility for their mistakes, instead of blaming their subordinates.
Let’s look at a few useful tactics that will help the manager to be a leader. These tactics will prove themselves useful in developing new leaders, while being able to focus on productivity as well.
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker
From Now to Future
Managers are task oriented and they focus on short term goals. However seeing a bigger picture; showing the way on how smaller tasks can be a part of bigger picture prevention of frustrations that often occur, when people are asked to do something right here, right now even if they had been working on something for a longer time.
Being transformational is appealing to people. It is yet another way of satisfying one of basic people’s needs – being a part of something bigger. Managers/executives are perceived as much more inspiring, when they do not only focus on the reward (money) or themselves, but they go beyond self-interest. Organising work in a way which gives people a sense of achievement and satisfaction is much more effective and motivating, than talking about results. This does not mean that a leader is not achievement-focused, but rather focuses on the importance of creating enthusiasm in others.
Title is just the beginning
Titles and authority are granted to managers so that they have the necessary power to make people do as they say. Do not get fooled by a fake sense of arrival, this is just the beginning. Being given position should suit as a starting point for establishing engagement. Numerous managers or leaders with a given position place their rights over responsibilities. This creates a sense of entitlement and importance. Job descriptions and signatures may become more important than work development. These types become territorial, which does nothing to promote healthy, balanced and creative environment for the team. A mature person will change the focus onto growing into leadership, empowering others, instead of keeping power to him/herself. Such a person will use the authority to build, not destroy. To avoid frequent changes of staff, it is important not to rely on the titles.
People quit people, not companies. John C. Maxwell
If the title is just a cover for insecurities and self-absorbance, then at some point the company will suffer. Good leader will engage the group in self-development and will assist during the journey. This will result in a smaller chance of producing employees who will be watching their clock and doing just enough not to get fired. People will give their best only for a person who shows them the way, instead of making the title work for them. A position may blind a person to the point that they cannot admit a mistake and blame others. Trust will never be built if the manager cannot give some freedom to the staff to make their own mistakes. Such environment is not enabling creativity, which is inevitable in problem solving. Managers wanting to be leaders need to remember that trust empowers and it enables people to develop, making the leader’s life easier at the same time increasing productivity. Leaders should be open to new ideas, seeking growth opportunities for their team members. All this allows the leader to move onto new, higher levels of leadership, creating more fulfilment.
Combining a managerial role with growing as a leader is challenging, but gives a high level of satisfaction. Becoming great in an organisation is based on the ability to empower others. This requires time investment and skills to build relationships. Employing and keeping excellent people is another factor that makes a leader. Instead of thinking short-term (manager), leader needs to focus not only on skills, which can be taught, but on character as a whole. This means seeking not only what’s visible to the naked eye, but creating philosophy based on character building, values. Recruiting the best people with the most potential and an open attitude is like planting seeds, which are then nurtured into beautiful flowers. Similarly, as gardener would not focus on the weeds or plants which hurt other plants, leaders should focus their energy on the people who are willing to grow, not the complainers, as the work environment is a symbiotic one, not parasitic one.
In order to remain in a teachable spirit, a belief that people are worth the effort is needed. Only then leaders can allow themselves to engage fully in the process of development. It may be a lengthy process overcoming personal insecurities, maybe even changing a system of personal approaches. Overcoming these challenges helps to build a team of people who will work effectively on their own, as well as will be amazing team players. Creating a team that works well together is one of the greatest assets of a leader. By developing each person’s strengths, and mitigating their weaknesses, the leader can get much more effectiveness and positive energy in the team.
Leaders and their Followers
Leading in a personal style that will be based on the above principles allows for some of the followers to be shaped into leaders. This can be one of the most rewarding steps of being a leader. The thought of being able to influence someone’s life and make it better can be a reward itself. It is important to realise that in organisations, we are dealing with various personalities and not all positions allow us to choose our own teams. While leading we will need to keep in mind that everyone is different, they have various skill levels, they are at different personal development stages and hence leader’s approach need to vary. The leader should focus on the reality of where particular team members are themselves, how they perceive us as a leader and work from there. Each of these elements plays an important role in manager’s own development. We should always keep in mind that it is extremely rare to climb high mountains alone.
At some point in their careers leaders should start thinking about helping their people develop into leaders themselves. The process of developing new leaders may be scary, especially at the beginning of the path as a leader. It is a natural process that new people are shaped and they take some of the responsibility and consequently leaders get more time to move further in their own journey.
The best moment to approach this is when the team achieved a desired level of trust and is happy to follow, while providing a satisfactory level of productivity. While it helps to know yourself and the dynamics of the team, it is important to be aware of the environment. In today’s organisations this is one of biggest challenges at higher levels of leadership. Similarly to a general idea of goals, growth needs to be measurable. Knowing what or who can cause problems and what can be of help is essential. It takes time, patience and observational skills, but pays off in a long term. Shaping new characters requires consistent, daily efforts. Similarly to general idea of goals, growth needs to measurable. A process that is based on inner changes must have visual representation. The process itself needs to be based on potential leader’s desires, values. Only this way will they be motivated to use their energy to develop strengths and talents. Being a manager first may have one very helpful side in blending the harder managerial side of people development together with the softer skills of a leader. Maintaining two parallel activities of delivering results and valuing people, while keeping an eye on the relational aspect is a good recipe for success. Taking it as it is and seasoning it according to the leader’s personality is special.
Unique Leadership Brand
Now, once we talked about the general rules of leadership development, let’s look at building customised leadership brand, based on individual characteristics.
We are all different; some of us are introverts, some are extraverts and while there are some commonly spread beliefs on who fits the leadership description better, everyone can become better at leading. Not everyone will enjoy the ride, not everyone will succeed, but nonetheless striving for greatness nonetheless is a key to development.
In order to move from manager to leader or blend these roles effectively, it is great to take some steps towards improvement. The first one would be designing the way, establishing where you will be going, what the purpose of your journey is. In order to do it asses your position and environment you are set to work in. Are there any actions you can take before to smooth your daily tasks to create some time? What are your insecurities and how can you overcome them before you start? You need to be confident and believe in our vision; otherwise others will pick up on any inconsistency. There is a reason why people follow these that look like they know what they are doing. Be honest with yourself; establish your strengths and weaknesses.
Being aware of our talents and goals helps us to successfully combine them for the most optimal result. Leadership is not a sprint, so there are no shortcuts. It is important to have a long term plan, break it down to stages and regularly asses the progress. Research shows that a written form may be more effective. It helps to clarify, evaluate what you want. It may take a form of a filter for opportunities and crossing one of the levels will provide a sense of achievement. If it just happens, it is hard to see. Once written and crossed, it takes a more physical form. Most of our goals are a build-up of small achievements that may be even building over years of many small successes. When you start feeling overwhelmed, break your goals into small actionable steps and assign realistic time frames to each.
As people, we have a tendency not to see the small achievements. It is a true skill to be able to see little steps. Think parents – they will be celebrating the first step, the first tooth, the first word of their child. They will not be waiting until their baby will get into college to celebrate. Learn to celebrate something daily and carry this practice into your professional life. Better, make it contagious. Celebrate with your team; celebrate their wins as well as your own ones. This creates atmosphere of encouragement and trust, but remember not to force anyone to do something they do not want to. Different personalities celebrate their wins in different ways. Make it your challenge to know people personality types and communicate with them accordingly. Respect introvert’s inner celebrations and allow extrovert to smile as openly as they want. Respect is an effect of hard work, but it bounces back. Good luck!