Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are You in Charge? Four Things Every Leader Must Do

After three years, Brenda proved to be the most reliable and knowledgeable cashier in the store. So when her manager left, Brenda was chosen to replace him. It was later that evening after her first day in charge that she began to think about what it would take to get the others to work as hard as she does. She realized that this had nothing to do with her know-how as a cashier.

She had a lot to learn about leadership. Like a lot of first-time managers, she didn’t know where to start. Maybe she’d get some training. Maybe her boss would advise her. Maybe not.

Even though “leadership” is one of the most common words in the language, people’s understanding of it varies widely, However, grasping a few basic concepts about leadership opens the door to leading more effectively.

First, people in charge are typically called “managers,” but they are expected to both manage and lead. Managing and leading are two totally different activities. Managing is about the effective use of resources such as funds, supplies, schedules, systems, tools, equipment, and so forth. It takes special abilities to administer these resources, but none of these skills work with people. When managers lead, they influence the performance of their team members to perform at their best, both individually and collectively. Simply put, you manage things, and you lead people.

Another basic fact about leadership is that it’s not just something that executives do. Most books on leadership are about presidents, generals and CEOs and the grand things they do. The truth is, foremen, section chiefs and team leaders are leaders, too. Their success depends mostly on how they deal with their direct reports. All managers need to lead effectively: from first-line supervisors to middle managers to top management.

Also, leadership isn’t about personal qualities, attributes or traits. It’s about what a manager does. Yes, having good judgment is important, but in the end, it has to translate to effective action. When managers lead effectively, people can see them doing it.

So what actions are we talking about? What do effective leaders do? In broad terms, manager-leaders get results from people in four ways.

1. Develop their know-how. To perform well, people have to know how to do what’s expected. Managers optimize their abilities by helping team members get stronger on the job. They do this on a daily basis by stating expectations, setting an example, instructing, giving feedback, coaching lessons from experience and supporting learning activities.

2. Inspire their desire to do their best. Managers need to tap into people’s motivation. Team members may know how to do what’s expected, but do they want to contribute their best work? Leaders inspire, not with rah-rah speeches or monetary incentives, but by setting an example, getting to know people’s values, needs and interests, expressing the team vision, assigning the right tasks to the right people, and showing appreciation for jobs well done.

3. Support their efforts to get results. Managers needs themselves as a “servant leader,” in that he gives team members what they need to succeed, removing barriers and allocating information and resources. These are things they don’t have access to except when empowered through the chain of management. This happens during delegation, when responsibility, authority and guidelines are shared along with the assignment. It also happens during execution, when a leader trusts someone with freedom of action.

4. Encourage them in the tough times. Work isn’t easy. People nearly always encounter adversity—problems, mistakes, shortfalls, and failures. When it happens, they could lose energy or quit. Managers need to give timely encouragement so that people work through the adversity and continue striving.

Managers are responsible for all four of these areas of leadership. Doing all of it effectively will require special skills and personal strengths. People aren’t born with these behavior patterns. They’re learned. The learning comes from the working with people on a daily basis and learning from this experience. So if you're in charge, part of the your job will always be to work on growing stronger as a leader.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Charmaine the creatives gal said...

Thanks for highlighting. Develop, Inspire, Support and Encourage, though they may seems rather simple but I believe we tend to overlook them. More often then not we source for more creatives and effective approach from motivation gurus.

Despoina said...

And I would add --> Champion all innovations