A lot of bloggers (myself included) spend a lot of time talking about what leadership is, and giving (hopefully) helpful guidance on how to be a better leader. Which is great, if you're already an average-or-better boss. But what about the bosses/supervisors that are going in completely the wrong direction? They need some serious course correction. You can't be a better leader until you learn how to stop being a lousy one. And unfortunately there are a lot of the latter out there.
Let's start by talking about what leadership is NOT.
I wrote an article recently called "No One Cares How Much You Know". In it, I made the argument that our people don't care what we know, bur rather they care what we can do for them. Many new managers, and also some aspiring ones, think that you have to be an expert in everything to be a good manager. Not the case. You need to know how to make your people better.
It's all about relationships. Often, that means posing more questions than answers. But knowing the right questions to ask is important. More times than not, your teams will already know, or be able to work toward, the right answer. And once they do, a leader's job is to help them put it into play. That means removing road blocks and helping them navigate red tape.
By allowing your team members to drive the solution, you're imbibing them with competence to continue to overcome obstacles themselves, as well as the confidence to realize their potential.
Workers focus on the details. That's what makes them good at their jobs. They understand the in's and out's; they know when everything is running smoothly, or when problems are around the corner. This is great news for leaders, because that means you don't have to spend your day worried about these details.
Your job is to spend your time on the direction of your work team, your department, your division, your company. Leaders who are too close to the details miss the bigger picture. They get consumed with the tactical and operational issues, that they can't effectively see to the strategic direction.
You've trained your people well. They know their jobs inside and out. Let them focus on the details.
Creating reports, paying bills, sending memos, these are things that have to be done for a business to survive. But they're boring. They don't do anything to energize your team members. They don't make people want to work for you. When's the last time you got a job application and their cover sheet said they really wanted to work for you because you have beautiful Crystal reports? Ever? Anyone? Bueler?
A leader's job is to win hearts and minds. And you can't do that by carrying a clipboard around and checking off to-do items. Get out there and connect.
Passing the Blame
#HRTribe'r Nicole Roberts just penned an excellent article about apologizing in business. In it, she says that fault does not equal responsibility. Many bosses struggle with this one, and also the converse: responsibility does not equal fault.
Being a leader isn't about hiding behind the rank and file. It's about stepping up and taking responsibility for what happens within your team, department, company. The higher you go in business, the more eyes are on you. Constantly. As in, every minute of every day. And how you react when things go wrong will determine how successful you can be.
I'm sure you're super thrilled about your fancy new role, having an office, having the title. But guess what? Just like knowledge, your people don't care about your job. They care what you can do for them. They care about their mortgage, their family, making it home to take their kids to soccer practice.
Successful leaders are the ones who care more about their team's welfare than their own. They make it their priority to make sure their people have what they need to do their jobs well. And when they experience a hardship in life, and believe me, it will happen, they want a leader who will connect with them, support them, and help raise them back up.
Help your people accomplish the things that matter to them in life, and you will receive their unbreakable allegiance.