“Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.” — Vince Lombbardi
We often hear or read about the difference between a Manager and a Leader. To me, a good manager is first of all a great leader. Great leaders are in great parts characterized by their communication skills and should set an example for everybody around. Leadership is communicated through three categories: Vision, Mission and Values.
- Vision: A good manager shows the big picture to his staff and then explains their relation to the big picture. At any moment, a worker needs to know why they’re doing something. More than that, the intent and the full context of a decision or of a situation should be disclosed and available for the person to consult. Nobody can foresee every little detail and most often the person doing the work will be most able to adapt, adjust, detect issues, report problems, and propose solutions. The first response of a manager should always be “thank you for letting me know”.
- Mission: What is your group working towards? What is the target? A good manager will celebrate success every time it occurs. However, to notice success, one must know what to look for. Set the stage in advance, define what success is with your teams, and let them take part in deciding how they want to celebrate. You’ll get a more motivated team and a lighter workload for yourself. Two birds, one stone.
- Values: Above all, a good manager is trustworthy and not only with friends. A manager is here to manage, i.e. make things happen. Things will continue to happen only if the environment of trust and security is stable. The day-to-day human values are simple to follow: respect others, respect the law, treat others the way you would like to be treated. My favourite text is the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Get acquainted with it and apply its values in your everyday life. It is the base of our modern society. Keep in mind that when someone sees you bypassing a rule, twisting reality, they will, even unconsciously, label you and remember it. If you don’t respect something or somebody, they will know deep inside that one day you’ll be cheating them of something as well. As George Van Valkenburg (US Representative 19th century) is believed to have said: “Leadership is doing what is right when no one is watching.”
The most important ability of a manager is to listen and then to communicate. Nowadays, most organisations still arepyramid-shaped. In your position, you have layers up and layers down. A manager should be listening, incorporating ideas, communicating, and adapting: listen up, listen down, listen sideways, communicate up, communicate down, and communicate sideways. This is valid in standard structures but probably even more in alternatives structures (holacracy, flat organisations, etc.).
Communication is not only commands and reports obviously. Yes, there are feedbacks, maybe the most important tool a manager can have but as importantly, and often forgotten, a manager, as a leader, should share. Share the praises you receive. Share the recognition within your team. Share the rewards in your organisation. Share the “thank-you”note you get from a satisfied customer (internal or external, this does not matter) or from a stakeholder. Noticing individual contribution during team meetings will get you a long way towards having a motivated team. Share the news on successful endeavour but also, share the money. Your people are doing the work, would they not be better off with a little bit more? Would they not be more motivated and return the favour by going the extra mile when you’ll need it? Information travels and gets deformed. Do you think nobody will know you got a big bonus but thought your team could do with just 0.5% blanket raise at the end of the year? Have you forgotten what it was being at the bottom of the food-chain and promising to change things as soon as you could?
A manager is a decision maker. You got your job to take the responsibility. As a manager, be responsible, and available. If you’re not available, you cannot listen, but you have to. Up to you to get organised but usually, regular meetings with each of you directs is a must. Know yourself, your surroundings, the environment and develop your emotional intelligence. You will understand everybody better. When the workload becomes too much, and it will, systematize and automate everything you can. Get help if you need to. Free up some time then do more.
Planning, organizing, staffing, leading/directing, controlling, monitoring and motivating is what you do. Now, how do you want to do it?