Lead June 1, 2010

A leader is a dealer in hope. (Napoleon)

The true and most critical part of managing people is leadership, where managers achieve the company tasks and objectives, while maintaining their integrity, the trust of their people, and balancing the corporate aims with the needs of the world beyond. Professional managers know they are not a leader to win a popularity contest – they are a leader to lead. (“Don’t run for office, you’re already elected!”).

Leadership is the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task, enabling the team to thrive, and serving the team’s needs (rather than the other way around).

Leading by example is a requirement, but it’s not enough. In addition, consider:

Lead with vision

Professional managers are visionaries, providing strong, inspirational, and focussed leadership. They interpret the company’s vision, mission and goals, talk about how good things will be, and deliver a clear plan on how we’ll get there. They set team direction and goals, then motivate staff to achieve them. They walk the job, and are seen. They retain focus on the core objectives.

Managers know that prior to expecting anyone to follow, a leader first needs to demonstrate a vision and values worthy of following. They know that leading is helping people achieve a shared vision, not simply telling people what to do. Visionary managers represent management to other company staff act as a role model for all staff.

Managers interpret the company vision, repackaged for their department, and never invent their own company vision.

Be decisive and honest

Professional managers set the tone of the organisation and know there is only one way – the straight way. They take difficult decisions bravely, and are truthful and sensitive when they implement them. They are decisive – even if the decision is to delegate or do nothing if appropriate – but strive to be seen to be making fair and balanced decisions.

Legitimate self-confidence is a winner – and professional managers know a true test of self-confidence is the courage to be open. For people embrace and follow modern compassionate, honest, ethical, peaceful, and fair principles, they must see these qualities demonstrated in their leader.

Professional managers know that a mistake is an opportunity to be better, come clean to show remorse, and a lesson learned. A leader must be brave enough to talk when lesser people want to fight. Anyone can resort to threats and aggression, but being aggressive is not leading. Gut feeling is important, but also important to recognise that it is just pattern recognition, not magic.

Be happy and positive

Professional managers make sure everybody counts and everybody knows they count. Leaders help people relax by breaking down the barriers and “leadership awe” by giving people time to get to know and respect each other. Leaders smile and encourage others to be happy and enjoy themselves. Work-a-day has to be fun, and good leaders celebrate and energise an organisation, and know that an informal atmosphere contributes to staff retention and happiness.

Get people following

Professional leaders know that everybody approaches every situation with at least some concern for, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM), and present cases with this in mind. Great leaders have a connection with, and are understanding of people’s needs and wishes and possibilities. Leadership solutions lie in their needs and wishes being met, of those people being led, protecting and enhancing their self-esteem, and encouraging contribution and commitment. They know the number one fear among all people is rejection, and so work to make people feel included.

Deal with issues

It’s the role of a leader to be the reinforcer and reminder of goals. Leaders are consistently firm, always fair, and very clear in dealing with unacceptable or unethical behavior. Professional managers are mediators when communications break down, and allow a confidential platform to air grievances. They actively allay fears in tough times, by bringing their experience to bear on situations when they arise, considering: what is the right thing to do in this situation. They know if they accentuate the negative, people are more likely to veer towards it, working to defuse a situation.

Meet human needs

Professional managers acknowledge that leadership is about behaviour first, skills second.

Leadership relies on management skills, but more so on qualities such as integrity, honesty, humility, courage, sincerity, passion, confidence, wisdom, determination, compassion, sensitivity, and a degree of personal charisma.

Leaders know the number one need among all people is acceptance, they use people’s propensity to talk about things that are important to them personally to engage and learn. Leaders know people tend to hear and incorporate only what they understand, and so work to increase their understanding of employees, and of employees understanding of the greater business needs, and their role in it.

Professional leaders praise loudly, blame softly, and are champions for their team. They know there is no formula for success, but know the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.

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