Leading from the Front.
A glance into leadership.
So, you’re a manager, but what makes you a manager? Is it the title? Is it the people reporting to you? Is it your position in the organizational structure? Well, you’ve probably answered “yes” to all of the above. BUT are you a leader? A Manager who isn’t a leader, is just an administrator.
The main question any manager should ask himself is “What is my contribution; What value do I add to the organization?” If you don’t have a clue, just ask your superiors what is expected from you. In any event, we’re not here to discuss that.
To lead, regardless if it’s a process, project or a group of people, you first, need to deal with yourself and understand that it is all on you! Yes, when “they didn’t perform”, it is all on you.
So how do you do it? I’d like to suggest a few non cognitive skills. Absolutely, this can be taught and developed, if you’re willing to put in the work and alter yourself talk.
First and foremost, courage! Don’t hide behind inaction, rather, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It takes courage to step into responsibility, and it takes courage to make a new decision. As a leader you are compelled to make decisions. To demonstrate the first step, you must be connected to the larger goal, to your organization and your team, full heartedly. A leader should gradually learn how to expand his “Risk Tolerance”, by setting the right goals – those that are realistic, relevant and achievable.
For this, a crucial trait is humility. Be humble enough to set the bar as low as possible, more than where you were yesterday. If you’ve never taken a stride running, a 10-mile run can be intimidating, so running 1 mile, may seem more realistic.
In this way, you will step into trust. Share your vision and share it in a digestible way. You don’t necessarily need to share the full vision at first, as this might be intimidating to some, and might even intimidate your direct manager and your colleagues. Slice it down into achievable goals, by laying the bricks one by one. Build trust within yourself and your team, with each brick you lay down, you and your team will gain more trust, both in this process and with each other. With each achievement, the trust your superiors have in you, will gradually build too. Your test will come, as in today’s VUCA reality no plan survives VUCA, no matter how well you have built it. This means that your path will include impediments along the way. While dealing with them, remind yourself of two things, your “why” and your team. To keep that sense of urgency and maintain determination remind yourself and your team “why are we doing this?”, so you can set the example of how you are planning to pass that impediment. This is exactly where you will be most tested as a leader -When things are not necessarily going according to plan. Demonstrate, first to yourself and then to your team, who you are as leader. Are you a leader who keeps still and can think clearly? Or are you the frantic one that gets disappointed? You need to know who you want to be and have the courage to demonstrate it.
While going through this process, you will experience growth. Understand that victory can be achieved in many ways, and this may be different to what you had in mind at the beginning. Constant work and using the right tools are key. To make this happen, you may need some mentoring, at your organization, or even with the help of external specialists. Here, humility, once again is important, never shy away of being a student. To build growth within your team, do not be afraid of not being the expert - It is your responsibility to develop your team expertise.
The evolution of a manager is best done by practicing taking decisions. This is the trait leaders are made of. Bear in mind, whether you are experienced or not, we all make “wrong” decisions, and this is the way you will find out how resilient you are. How will you choose to move forward, and how do you take responsibility? This is where you will gain the most.
Never stop practicing.