It occurred to me the other day–at most companies (with one notable exception) I’ve worked with over the years, managers have been promoted more based on technical ability than leadership qualities.
Shouldn’t those two characteristics be flipped?
Yes, we need our managers to be proficient at their craft–whether it’s writing, welding or producing widgets. But, more importantly, don’t we need them to be leaders that are driving our organization’s strategies and furthering our vision? Don’t we need them to have critical change management skills that are so vital in an economy and climate like the one we’re experiencing right now? Don’t we need them to be leaders who can build high-performing teams and bring people together–not folks who polarize and enjoy alone time in their offices?
In reality, we need them to be all these things and more, which is why management positions are so challenging. There are so many demands on your time–prioritization and organization are at a premium. Plus, there’s the whole other element of employee retention. Want to keep and develop your top talent? Better make sure employees respect and enjoy working with their manager. After all, what’s the saying, “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” Powerful.
One of our roles as communicators is to help managers foster their leadership abilities when it comes to change management, team building and communications skills. But, as we’re helping them become better leaders through our insightful counsel, what can we do to improve our own leadership skills?
* Take a couple leadership classes. I’m not saying stop pursuing your advanced degree in your specialized field–I’m just saying consider taking a course to better prepare you for the people management side of your position. If you really think about it, how much of your day is spent building consensus, persuading and navigating relationships? Take that side of the job seriously–your employees do.
* Learn from leaders past and present. Pick a leader–whether it’s one within your company or Barack Obama. Present day or years ago. Doesn’t matter. Just select someone you respect–and a leader with a style you’d like to mimic. Maybe it’s your CEO. Maybe it’s FDR. Whatever the case, start studying this leader and their traits–how do they communicate? how do they present to groups/teams? how to they learn from their mistakes?
* Read at least three books on leadership this year. Start with Lincoln. And you won’t struggle to find books about the man’s renowned leadership abilities. Find a more contemporary version, too. And learn. Get a few different perspectives to help you get a better handle on your own leadership style.