30 Sep How To Be A Leader, Not A Manager
We hear a lot about how people want to be leaders, not managers. We talk about developing leadership skills, rarely management skills. People often leave jobs due to feeling like they have been micromanaged. But unless we ourselves had a great leader to learn from, it can be hard to know how to transition from management to leadership. The two are also not exclusive. It isn’t possible to lead without applying some management. There are a few steps you can take to help make that transition.
Make sure you are clear on your values.
This is your own value system. Hopefully, these align with the corporate values of where you work, but you should at least be clear on your own. Your team should be clear on those, too, and you should apply them consistently to your management of people.
Honesty is a key value at work for me, and I’ve been known to let people go who have knowingly misled me. Some of these decisions have been hard, but I am resolute in my application of these values. If your team is clear on what you stand for, they can be clear on where they stand with you. This will enhance your decision-making, your leadership style and, ultimately, your results.
Consider your external position.
Your team seeing you as a strong leader can be influenced by how you are seen externally. If your team sees you publishing thought leadership, speaking at events or being recognized by your peers, they will likely build greater respect for you. While this won’t guarantee that they think of you as a great leader, it certainly can’t hurt.
People who are considering coming to work for you may also be influenced by this. The fact that they can research you before meeting you will give them a level of comfort in the interview and add to their perception of you as someone to work for. It goes without saying that this needs to be backed up by the work you do internally. Do consider what your online presence and brand say about you. It should be in line with how you want to be seen internally.
Don’t treat everyone the same.
Micromanagement might get a bad rap, but we forget that there are people in our organizations who need it. Those who are new to the workplace, for example, may need help navigating some of the basic aspects of their job as well as corporate culture. Close management of these people helps rather than hinders them.
In my career, I’ve often had to enforce good timekeeping for new starters. While I’ve always had quite a flexible attitude toward working hours, as a less-experienced manager, I was uncomfortable managing an issue that really felt quite minor. What I learned was when I allowed someone to be habitually late when their peers weren’t and before they had established themselves in the business, it was harmful to our overall culture. By addressing this early and overcoming my own concerns about being overbearing, I delivered a better culture and result for us all. I also like to think I helped these individuals learn about the expectations they would face in their career, preparing them for future jobs they may have.
Employees with more experience or who had been with the business for longer had earned more flexibility and creativity in their roles. I learned to think of management as a box. For someone who was new, or underperforming, the box in which they could operate might be quite confined. For someone who was performing well, that box got bigger. As long as my own values were applied consistently, managing people differently became a strength.
You’ve probably noticed that these steps are not about getting better at your own job, attending any courses or enacting any HR processes. Leadership is not a tick-box exercise, and it can’t be reduced to a process or number of steps to learn. If you aren’t sure where you stand, make sure you ask the people you want to lead. Three-sixty feedback is important here. We tend to ask our boss or people we see as leaders how to do it, but these are not the people whose opinions matter.
The key to being a good leader is one of the hardest things to teach, but it can be the easiest to do. You just have to bring your own style and personality in order to do it well.