There are two basic types of leaders; those in a leadership position, and those who lead. One is called a leader because their title or level of seniority (or authority) says so, while one has a calling to be a leader.
It’s important to be able to tell the difference between the two.
The person in the leadership position is there because they were either promoted to the position since they excelled in their previous role (some might refer to this situation as the Peter Principle – promoted to their highest level of incompetence – like this example), or they were promoted to the position out of friendship, favoritism, or an ability (and desire) to “lay down the law” as required. This person will get your company results, but they often aren’t able to trust that their team can perform without them. “By the Book,” “My way or the highway,” and “Because I said so” are frequent justifications for their leadership decisions.
On the other hand, a leader is the person that makes you want to follow them. There is something about them that draws you to them, whether it’s the way they encourage you to do the best you can, the way they train you to do things right, or it’s just the way they demonstrate their respect for being part of the team. A leader will allow you to grow as a person and as a coworker. They understand their success comes from your success; when you do well, they do well.
What is a leader?
- A great leader will get more out of you than the strictest supervisor ever will. A leader doesn’t manipulate you or try to trick you into doing extra work when they need it.
- A leader listens before they make a decision. They will talk with their bosses to find out what needs to be done, and to their team to find out how to do it.
- A leader understands the job can’t be done without you. A leader doesn’t see you as a tool they need to use to get the job done.
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Is a leader always in a leadership role? Nope. It might be the newest member on the team that does the true leading. Think back to some of the projects that you were in charge of. Were you the one leading the team, or were you just the one giving the orders?
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
– Peter F. Drucker
Even if you see yourself in the first category, there’s still hope. You can choose to be a leader by working with your team.
Here are five easy steps to help you become a great leader.
1. Tell your team what you need
If you want to make things happen, let your team know what needs to be done. If you’ve done your job right, they are already experts. They know how to do their job, all they need is for you to get out of the way. Tell them what you need, and let them come up with the plan on how to get there.
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
– George S. Patton
2. Give them the tools, time, and training they require
If you prepare your team properly, they’ll be able to handle just about anything in your business. Well, even if you don’t prepare them, they’ll figure a way to make it happen, but it’s much better for you if you invest the time and energy into a structured training program that helps them develop their skills.
3. Ask your team what they need
Once you’ve told your team what you need, ask them what they need to make it happen. This can be difficult for some managers, as they think the team is going to make outrageous demands. If you’re being open and honest with your team, chances are they’ll be open and honest with you about their needs. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts they won’t ask for as much as you think they would. This helps create realistic expectations on timelines and budgets, which you can share with your bosses.
4. Encourage your team as they work
Regular communication is key. Don’t wait until the day of the deadline to check in with them. Find out as they go along how the project is faring. This way you can help them overcome barriers if they need it, or praise them if they are on or ahead of schedule.
5. Thank them for being on the team, share the reward with them
Appreciate your people. If they do a good job, show them that you are grateful. This doesn’t mean throw a big party every time you finish a quarter, but it does mean you should genuinely thank them for a successful project. If your team helps you get your bonus, it makes sense to pass some of it along to them. If you have a bonus structure, make sure they benefit from it too – 70% of something is much better than 100% of nothing.
“I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”
– Benjamin Disraeli
Are you a manager or a leader? If you are a leader, which style do you use to get the job done?
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