Conventional wisdom is that everyone can and should be a leader. The truth is that successful leaders probably have very competent managers taking care of the details, motivating the forces and developing the strategies. Today’s leaders are in danger of failing miserably if they don’t develop key management traits that ensure their vision and goals are not only established, but achieved.
The best test of whether you are a successful leader is to turn around and see if anyone is following. If your people are not crowding forward to race to the corporate goals, you may want to check out your own management skills in engaging them in your vision.
Listen: Forget about being the smartest person in the room. You may be, but that’s not going to win support and commitment from your team and, unless you can do it all alone, you won’t succeed without them. Enlist their ideas, listen with intent, encourage dissenting opinions. People who don’t feel heard don’t feel valued and their next move will be out the door.
Set clear expectations; provide consistent accountability: Specifically what do you expect people to do? Are you rewarding what you value? Do you have the right people in the right positions? Do they have the capabilities, training, and resources to do the job? Do they know precisely what is expected, what the timelines are and what the consequences will be if they are not met? Is this communicated consistently, frequently and in ways that fit the listener?
Make decisions: Not making a timely decision is the strongest decision of all. It immobilizes people, destroys team confidence and trust in your leadership. Are you the reason people are not consistently productive? Do your managers get the answers they need to move forward? Do they have the information and support they need to implement your decisions?
Deal with conflict: NOW! It isn’t going to go away. Understand the difference between challenges that can be fixed and those that can’t. In every organization, there are people who are not performing or who are destructive to the work of others. People don’t change dramatically. Managers tend to spend the majority of their time with their lowest performers. Your lowest performers are not doing well for a reason and face it, a C+ performer is a C+ performer. Find out the reason, address it directly, move them somewhere that better suits their interests and skills, or move them out. Focus on your A- performers and you will move them to A+ performers (and enjoy the ride!).
Encourage risk taking: “Reward excellent failures; punish mediocre successes.” (Tom Peters) The marketplace demands newer, better, faster, cheaper. Thinking outside the box is the only way you can compete effectively. There will be some colossal screw ups and that needs to be built into your expectations. However, when people are thinking creatively, when they care enough to take a chance, you are going to reap the benefits 10 times over when the right idea hits.
There is no question that leadership has changed. The pace of life has accelerated, social media has become as important as face-to-face relationships, employees no longer see themselves as working “for” but working “with” a boss. They are mobile, committed to “what” they are interested in, rather than “who” pays their salary, unafraid of being on their own and determined to have a life style that matches their own values. The good news is when your vision matches theirs, the sky is the limit of what you can achieve together.
Leadership and Management are two sides of the same coin. They can no longer be separated by title or function, relegated to steps on the corporate ladder. Each role must encompass aspects of the other.
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