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Leadership Skills for Managers
By Marlene Caroselli
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2000The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
What Is a Leader?
Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, is reported to have called his direct reports together one day. He issued a three-word dictum—"Don't manage! Lead!"—and then promptly left the room. Many were left wondering, "What's the difference?"
That's an important question, so it seems logical that we begin a book on leadership by examining the difference between managing and leading, between a manager and a leader.
What Is a Manager?
The classic definition of a manager is one who gets done through other people. You may be planning, directing, controlling, hiring, delegating, assigning, organizing, motivating, disciplining, or doing any number of other things managers do on a daily basis. No matter what you do, though, you are working toward a goal by helping others do their work.
You are a manager if:
1. You direct the work, rather than perform it. Are you frequently tempted to pitch in on a regular basis or to do the work yourself, rather than delegate? If so, you're not spending your time wisely or well. Occasionally, you may have to roll up your sleeves and work with the team on a rush project. Remember, though, you were hired to manage the staff's work—not to be part of the staff.
2. You have responsibilities for hiring, firing, training, and disciplining employees. Staff development is an important part of your job. Such development often determines whether staff members stay with an organization or leave for better opportunities. In addition to regular performance appraisals, you should work with each person you manage to determine a career path.
3. You exercise authority over the quality of work and the conditions under which it is performed. As a manager, your first obligation is to your people. In part, this obligation means you work to ensure a safe environment for them and to uncover potential threats to that environment. (Does your team know what to do, for example, if all the lights suddenly went out or if a bomb threat were received?) The obligation also means you owe your customers—internal or external—the highest-quality outputs.
4. You serve as a liaison between employees and upper management. Managers wear many hats. Among them: traffic cop, psychologist, coach, minister, diplomat, and envoy. In this role, you serve as the link between those doing the work and those who need or benefit from the work being done. The liaison serves as a buffer, a praiser, a translator, and a seeker-of-resources to ensure the work is done more efficiently and the employees are recognized when they've completed it.
5. You motivate employees and contribute to a culture of accomplishment. You've no doubt heard that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is "that little extra." If you're totally committed to your job as manager, then you're aware of the need to motivate, to instill pride, to create a climate in which innovation can flourish.
What Is a Leader?
While the manager works to carry out the aims of the organization, the leader serves to create new aims, tweak old ones, or initiate new courses of action. Leadership is what Sam Walton was promoting when he encouraged people to "eliminate the dumb." The leader challenges the status quo, in the most positive and diplomatic of ways, in order to continuously improve. It is the leader we turn to when we feel that "good enough" is not.
You are a leader if:
1. You believe that, working in concert with others, you can make a difference. It's fairly easy to make money. But leaders strive to make a difference. They are willing to make sacrifices and to inspire others to do the same. When John F. Kennedy inspired Americans to give up their life style and join the Peace Corps, he admitted he was asking them to accept the "toughest job you'll ever love."
2. You create something of value that did not exist before. When you hear of someone being a leader in a particular field or when you hear of something being the leading edge, you know that person or that thing stands out by virtue of being first or being different. If you can point to one improvement you have implemented in the last six months, you can rightfully call yourself a leader.
3. You exhibit positive energy. We gravitate toward individuals who exude confidence. Their magnetism attracts us and we become willing followers. Call it charisma, call it enthusiasm, but know that such individuals easily lead others by virtue of their passion for accomplishment. If you fit this description, then you are known for the way you "attack" various tasks. Your fervor is unbridled. You see hurdles as things to overcome. In short, your energy energizes others.
4. You actualize. The true leader goes beyond vision to create a new reality. He actualizes the dream he has inspired in others. In the process of self-actualizing, the leader is becoming all that he can be and making others believe they can do the same. The leader is committed. He believes the collective actions of the whole team will lead to mission accomplishment.
5. You welcome change. Through his commitment to action, the leader treads virgin territory. He spots vacuums and works to fill them. He sees what is invisible and inspires others to make the ideal real. Leaders know that change is progress. And to lessen the fear that progress instills, the leader is out front. He knows that he must take an "I'll go first" approach to convince others that change is not only necessary, but that it can be good.
What Traits Do Leaders Exhibit?
Leadership reflects a wide spectrum of traits—all of them admirable, all of them beneficial to others. Because the study of leadership in an ongoing one, there will never be full agreement on what constitutes leadership traits. Nor will students of leadership agree on whether leaders are made or born. Nonetheless, there are certain characteristics that all leaders seem to possess. We'll explore them here. As we do so, make some mental comparisons. Ask yourself, "To what extent do I possess these qualities?"
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wisely and wryly observed that "all truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident." Leaders who dare to do something are prepared for opposition. They often take a courageous stand, suggesting that even if something "ain't broke," perhaps it should be fixed nonetheless. Leaders have the courage of their convictions and are ready to be ridiculed, opposed, and ultimately agreed with.
One tool that will help you prepare for the opposition a new idea might engender is called the ABCD Approach. Let's walk through the process. First, think of some way the work environment could be improved. You may want to consider a way to expedite a work process or to improve morale, to develop a new orientation program or to enlist Subject Matter Experts (SME) to conduct some training.
Whatever your idea is, subject it first to the "A" element: Anticipate objections. Ask yourself who is likely to offer what objections to the plan you will propose.
Once you've identified the individuals and the specific negative reactions you're likely to encounter, you can take steps to prepare yourself for the persuading you'll have to do. Cite precedents as part of your persuasion effort. Also arm yourself with statistics to strengthen your position. Finally, garner support—ideally you can quote someone in senior manageme
Excerpted from Leadership Skills for Managers by Marlene Caroselli. Copyright © 2000 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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