Read an Excerpt
Winning at LeadershipHow to Become an Effective Leader
By Sal Monastero
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Sal Monastero
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLearning to Be a Leader
In his book Coaching, Ferdinand F. Fournies described what I was like when I was promoted into my first management position. I think he was describing almost everyone who receives a promotion into a first leadership position. He probably was describing you too. He said that when someone is promoted, the person who does the promoting thinks this: "You are a manager because I just made you one; therefore, you must know how to do the job." In other words, the person making the promotion is thinking, "I promoted him to his position; therefore, he must be qualified. If he wasn't qualified, I wouldn't have promoted him." Fournies goes on to say that "when the new manager fails, the primary reason for failure is assumed to be unchangeable, inherent limitation in the individual, rather than an inability to do something because he or she does not know how to do it."
Most superiors in an organization will not admit that they picked the right person but just did not put enough time into coaching the new leader properly. So when the newly promoted person fails, they think it has to be because he or she failed to do something. In truth, the superior made a mistake by not realizing that technical qualifications are not the same as leadership qualifications. Technical qualifications involve proficiency in a particular function of the business, such as sales ability or accounting or financial skill. A person who is technically proficient is not necessarily ready for leadership.
The second mistake is more unfortunate, because the newly promoted people think that because their superiors promoted them, they must be qualified. In reality, the only people who know that the newly promoted leader lacks leadership training are the ones who work with and for that leader. They not only see it but often are called upon to become the coaches and trainers of their new leader. This kind of coaching can sometimes be harsh, particularly when the new leader is not prepared. In these situations, the employees often will provide negative coaching and either be critical or show their frustration in other ways.
Employees may ask for transfers. They may complain to coworkers. They may leave the company. My goal is to give you the tools to be a successful leader so that you avoid some of the mistakes many of us made and still make. The solution is to learn to be a leader.
Leadership Can Be Learned
Learning to be a leader does not have to be difficult, but it does require learning. The reason is that people follow a person, not methods, and most new leaders start out with methods. They emphasize job-specific methods or rules rather than seeing that the leadership function is people oriented.
It was perhaps a little easier for me because I was a leader in a sales organization. When you lead a sales organization, it quickly becomes obvious that there is no way you can be successful unless your salespeople and their support staff are both personally successful and supportive of your leadership. If you don't figure that out on your own, they will be sure to tell you. Every dime of my revenues came from the people I managed. I did not personally produce anything of value. They did! More importantly, I learned that my success or failure was not going to be dictated by the corporate leaders in New York. It depended on my success or failure in gaining the support of the people who worked with me locally. I needed them!
It is possible that it is more difficult to understand how important your employees are in a non-sales leadership management position, because the fruits of their efforts are not as immediately measured as in a sales management position. However, it is important to remember that whether you are in a sales organization or perform an administrative function—in any leadership position—you will fail if those you lead are failing. It is interesting to me that there are so many leaders who have the ability to divorce themselves from the failures of their employees yet are willing to own the successes they achieve. I have known people who believed they were good leaders even though their business units were failing. For example, one of my former employees was responsible for the development of new salespeople. He was not good at it and had a dismal track record. When I would press him on the trainees' poor performances, he would terminate them rather than improve them and then come back and say, "I showed them the door." I would then press him on the poor performance and his response was never to take any personal responsibility. It was always the trainee's fault, not his.
These leaders believe that circumstances cause their lack of performance and that they earned a promotion based on effort not results. It's similar to playing a sporting event where the score doesn't matter.
We Start Leading in Middle Management
For most of us, our first meaningful leadership position will be in what is often described as middle management. Middle management, though, can mean a lot of things. For our purpose, I will use middle management to mean any position, in any endeavor, where you lead people directly and not through intermediaries. You could be leading a platoon, a basketball team, a department, a school, or a charity, and by my definition, you would be in middle management. I think the textbook definitions of middle management miss the point of leadership and management in real life. Most definitions describe a middle manager as someone who heads a specific department or business unit. One definition states that a middle manager is responsible for implementing the top management's policies and plans. I believe that in real life, in real businesses, most of us are in middle management according to my working definition. All of us—even the CEO of a corporation or the coach of the finest team in sports history—have people to whom we report and people we lead. The CEO reports to the board of directors who report to the shareholders. Everyone reports to someone. We are all in the middle. We all receive leadership and policy from those above us in the organization, and we all take what we receive and provide leadership and policy for those we lead.
In the book Competitive Strategy, authors Pearce and Robinson talk about "stakeholders." Every one of us in business has stakeholders. The board has shareholders. The CEO has the board. We also have stakeholders "below" us, for want of a better term. The CEO is also responsible for the employees, who are stakeholders as well. There are stakeholders above and below us on the organizational chart. We are all in middle management in some way.
The decisions made by the CEO of a corporation or the owner of a team may be critically important to their organizations and affect many people. But the decisions made locally to bring about the CEO's decisions are of greater importance to local people, because their careers are more affected by the local leader than by the CEO. If the local leader is ineffective, it doesn't matter how dynamic the CEO is—you will have an unrewarding career in the environment he creates. On the other hand, a gifted local leader can create an environment that provides a career experience that is truly rewarding even if the CEO is ineffective.
Corporations are often global, but corporate success is achieved locally in remote locations or in small departments. Local leaders, unknown to shareholders or owners or CEOs, are called upon to implement the corporate strategy. They are the ones who either make or break the organization. Local leaders generally manage a small, local part of the business and are therefore commonly in middle management. Many times they are new to their leadership positions, because they are managing a smaller type of endeavor than the corporation itself. Middle-management leadership is the area, however, where we find the new leaders who have not been trained properly for their roles. They typically have recently been promoted because they possessed the technical knowledge or sales ability to do the jobs of the people they are leading, but they have not received training on how to lead others. For example, take a person who is a successful accountant and is promoted to run the finance department but may not be prepared to organize, motivate, and inspire others. Middle management is also the place where we find veteran leaders who have not progressed to more senior positions. For them, keeping vital and personally motivated is as important a leadership task as motivating the people they lead.
Leadership Takes Heart, Not Methods
I was a local leader in a major corporation. I was a middle leader-manager by my definition. I reported to a regional director and had salespeople who reported to me. I had to grow a business, lead others to do business and grow, and manage the profit and loss of the business as well as performing all the administrative functions that go along with those responsibilities.
When I started in management, I made the most common rookie mistake of a new leader—I was too dogmatic. I knew all the policies and procedures and expected that everyone else knew them too. Because I had been successful as a salesman, I knew what it took to build a successful client base. I knew how hard someone had to work to be successful. My problem was that I expected everyone else to do it just like me, and it turned out that everyone was different. They weren't bad different—just different. Some, in fact, were differently better, but all I saw was the different.
I relied too much on the methods and not enough on the passion.
I relied too much on the procedures and methods of management and not enough on putting heart into management. I knew what those above me wanted, and I knew that my career depended on their approval. I didn't know yet that it was the approval of those on my local team that mattered more. I didn't know yet that the secret to success for all of us in middle management is to show respect to the people above us but show heart to the people we lead. I had to learn that there was no such thing in management as being the boss. In fact, leaders quickly learn that as soon as we think we are the bosses, we're on our way to failure. It is very difficult for a boss-type person to be a leader, because the boss person thinks people must follow, and the truth is that people have to want to follow.
The secret to success is to show respect to the people above us and show heart to the people we lead.
You can't be a leader without followers!
All of us in leadership roles need people to lead, and we have to earn each person we want to lead one by one. We can't tell them to follow us because we are appointed—we have to earn them. Leaders need consenting followers. Surprisingly, this is one of the least-discussed concepts in leadership training. Most leadership training programs focus on the methods of leadership. They focus on the technical aspects of leadership, not the winning over of followers. All successful leaders eventually understand that their success is the result of earning followers who consent to their leadership.
One of my first leaders did this very service for me.
After a number of people resigned from my sales office, my regional director asked me to join him for lunch. He told me that I was all about the methods and was not getting to know my people; I was not showing that I cared about them as individuals. All I cared about was the business as a whole, and I had not recognized yet that the business was nothing more than the sum of the people. I was about efficiency, not people. He told me that leadership required a heart. He was saying nicely that it was obvious that I did not care enough about the people on my team. I was cold and distant, and I was on my way to failing. People were not consenting to follow me. I was the appointed leader but not the accepted leader. He was right, and I worked at changing. The fact that I survived thirty-seven years in management hopefully shows that I changed for the better. You can too.
The job of being a middle manager—or really a leader in the middle—is the most difficult one in a company, because the middle managers are the ones called upon to be the implementers of policy. On the other hand, the job of being a local leader within a national company can be one of the most rewarding from a career standpoint. It is the daily equivalent of living Basic Leadership 101, not in college but in real life. It is the best position, because it gives you the opportunity to manage face-to-face and one-on-one. You learn almost immediately if your leadership is effective or not. You see the results of your leadership in person, not through sales reports or cost-reduction studies. Frankly, you also learn whether or not you have the ability to earn followers almost immediately.
A veteran of my industry summed up the benefits of local leadership away from the home office in very graphic terms for me years ago. I was the manager of a local sales office, and I asked him for his advice when I was asked to take a position in our home office. He said, "You have the best job in the company. It's like being the governor of one of the original thirteen colonies. As long as you keep sending taxes back to the mother country, you'll be well favored. And as long as you send more taxes back than the other colonies, you will be very well compensated." I took his advice, and he was correct. People came and went in the home office, but I managed to survive in the colony.
The most important lesson of this chapter is that while people earn their first promotion because they possess the technical knowledge to do a particular function (e.g., sales ability or knowledge of any specific job or task), they will succeed or fail based on different skills—leadership skills. And, most times, no one spends the time to train new leaders in the value and action skills addressed in this book.. These are the people skills that no one spends time talking about but that become most important in a middle-management leadership position. They are skills apart from technical know-how. For some of us, they are skills we learned early in our lives at home, on sports teams, playing music, or on our first jobs. My goal in this book is to give you the heart skills to be successful in management so that whatever your career goals are, you will be in a position to achieve them.
Below, I've recounted some experiences that affected my future and helped prepare me for leadership. We are preparing for future leadership every day of our lives. Every experience we have will influence the kind of leader we later become. Unfortunately, for most of us, we don't realize until later that a particular person or event was instrumental in our future success. I don't want to get caught up in my career when we should be talking about yours. However, in order to speak about leadership, I have to draw on my experiences. I want to share just a few of the very important experiences that helped form my future leadership style. Perhaps giving you these examples will allow you to keep your eyes and ears open and seek out experiences and people who are part of your leadership development. If you are a veteran leader, perhaps reading this will encourage you to be a better leader to someone on your team.
Take the Initiative to Ask Why
When I graduated from college, I decided I would take a job that would allow me the time to go to law school at night. It did not matter what the job was, because it was not going to be my career—it was just a job to get me through law school. Being a lawyer was my goal. The job I took was as a management analyst (GS-5) in the Navy Department. In two words, the job was very boring. All I did all day long was prepare staff reports for the people I reported to. I wrote papers on boring topics. It was like being back in college. I would prepare a report, and then someone would correct it for content, grammar, and spelling. Here I was, a college graduate, and someone was correcting everything I did every day. I can remember walking the circular halls of the Pentagon with my papers, wishing I had a real job. Well, in retrospect, it was a real job. Our country was entering the Vietnam War in earnest, and the work I was doing was part of the planning process. The problem was that I could not see how my specific function fit into the big picture. There was a general lack of inspiration among the long-term civil servants, so they could not inspire new people like me.
Excerpted from Winning at Leadership by Sal Monastero Copyright © 2010 by Sal Monastero. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.