Leadership Starts with You
Managing other people starts with managing yourself. A thorough knowledge of who you are is the basis of successful leadership. Having a clear view of your own personality, preferences, convictions and values is essential if you want to become successful as a leader.
How you can gain this insight will be dealt with in one of the following chapters. But this tip is a good start: ask other people for feedback. Ask a colleague you feel comfortable with to tell you how you come across. You will discover there are differences between your own perception and theirs. For all you know, they may give you a number of improvement points in terms of attitude, communication and behavior straight away.
This form of self-reflection is not just useful for inexperienced leaders. In fact, every manager or leader should take the time to occasionally step back and ask themselves the following questions:
» Which matters have I dealt with successfully today/this week? What could I have done better?
» What have I done that is helpful or useful for my team?
» What would I handle differently in the future?
This will help you gain new insights, find possible links, solve certain problems or find a better way to deal with your own reactions or those of others.
What can help is leadership training. If you need a professional sounding board, seek the help of a professional coach who will ask you the right questions, give you constructive feedback, put things into perspective and challenge you to grow into a better leader.
Successful leadership is often a question of finding the right balance between leading and managing. But what is the difference?
A manager is focused mainly on setting and achieving goals, checking progress and steering where necessary. They are likely to make decisions based on figures and key performance indicators.
In comparison, a leader has a long-term view and influences people by inspiring them. They know how to delegate and make decisions based on what is best for the team.
To sum it up, we could put it like this: A manager dictates what needs to be done. A leader asks what needs to be done. Or in the words of American management professor Peter Drucker: “A manager does things right, a leader does the right things.
So what makes a great leader?
First of all, a leader needs to be an excellent communicator. Knowing that voice and body language make up for roughly 90% of good communication, these are two elements that a leader should master. If you want to become a charismatic leader, it is absolutely crucial to develop your communication skills, especially the non-verbal ones.
Secondly, your co-workers want their leader to be an inspiration to them. That is the big difference between a leader and a manager. A manager checks up on things, walks down the paths he knows well, delegates, follows up on results and so on. A leader embraces change, breaks the rules and turns challenges into opportunities to explore new paths.
Thirdly, a leader needs to be a facilitator. Someone who creates a platform that allows co-workers to grow. Facilitating is all about creating an environment to help your people reach their goals as efficiently as possible. A good facilitator and a good coach have many qualities in common.
Charismatic leadership can entail a number of pitfalls. Sometimes, charismatic leaders can be so convinced of their own power, they think themselves to be infallible. This can result in narcissistic, arrogant or downright intolerable behaviour towards the people around them.
This type of leader is likely to develop a tunnel vision and focus too much on one aspect of his position, losing complete track of opportunities but also of potential problems and threats.
Another pitfall may be that organizations rely too heavily on their charismatic leaders and are no longer capable of developing their own vision. If the leader abandons ship, the company can be left steerless.
In leadership, it is also crucial to learn how to delegate. Not just because there is a risk of added stress, but above all because you need time to get to your key tasks, i.e. managing an ever-growing company and developing new projects.
By delegating tasks to your staff, you will improve the way they function and their productivity. You give them greater responsibility and the opportunity to develop themselves.
In a management function, it is important to keep developing yourself. Here are 3 tips to get you on the right track.
1: Listen to your co-workers.
If there is one thing that guarantees instant success, it is being open to input, ideas, suggestions, feedback, and even criticism from your team. It doesn’t mean you just have to accept everything that is thrown at you, but the least you can do is listen. There are two major benefits. If you take the time to listen your co-workers will feel more appreciated and understood, and you might learn something. Working on your own development is a never-ending path. Keep on listening and learning.
2: Embrace diversity
In every team, you will find nice people and annoying ones, older and younger co-workers, fast and slow learners, etc. Each member of the team has his/her strengths and weaknesses. My leadership coach once said to me: “you have to love the people you work with”. What he meant was that, as a leader, you need to show genuine appreciation for every team member’s input.
3: Dare to make mistakes
It may sound contradictory, as this manual is aimed at avoiding mistakes when it comes to good leadership. But there is no such thing as perfection, unfortunately. So, however good your intentions may be, you will encounter many obstacles and pitfalls along the way. It’s not bad to make mistakes, look at it as an opportunity to learn from them.