14 Jan

Stop Managing, Start Leading

When it comes to your team, your department, or your company, are you a manager or a leader. We’re not talking about what it says on your business card of email signature; how do people actually see you? Your peers, people you report to, and people who report to you? What is there impression? Do you handle the things that need to be handled? Or do you mentor, make suggestions, and strive to find a better way?

Regardless of how you see yourself, most of us would rather be a leader. Having said that, many are uncertain about exactly what that role entails. What can you do to provide the best leadership for your people? Many of the best qualities of a leader are common sense: following the Golden Rule, for example. But even the subtler things matter … which is why we’ve compiled this easy-to-read list of five leadership tips you can put into practice.

  1. Let your workers work. Being a leader does not mean doing the work yourself. If you feel the need to go in behind your people and finish tasks they should be doing, you either don’t have the right people, or you don’t have faith in them to do their jobs. Your job is to be the BOSS; the more you let your people do their jobs, the more time you have to focus on the long-range success of your team or department.
  2. Make the hard choices. This is a follow-up to the first suggestion. What if you discover you DON’T have the best person for a position? Do you let that person go? Find him or her another place in the company? Just let it go and hope it works itself out? Effective leaders learn to make firm decisions, quickly and confidently–even if those decisions are uncomfortable. This decisive manner sends a strong, positive message to team members and makes them feel that things are under control. While we’re on the subject, feel free to encourage your managers to make decisions themselves in their areas of responsibility.
  3. Embrace flexibility. Our culture is ever evolving, and technological breakthroughs change the way we operate, sometimes seemingly on a daily basis. The choice to make decisions may sometimes mean stepping out of your comfort zone: flexibility and adaptability are keys to survival. As business conditions change–in you industry, in your local market, and in the economic landscape–wise leaders know when to move away from the status quo and seek out new strategies for growth.
  4. Define success for each position. From running the office to making the morning coffee: no matter what the job is, the person (or people) doing should understand what’s expected–and the most efficient way of doing it. Sometimes that’s as simple as walking through the process or bringing it up at a staff meeting. Other situations may call for online training videos or off-site continuing education courses. Be willing to provide whatever’s necessary.
  5. Embody your ideals. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” There is wisdom in that advice, and it’s just as relevant for your team as it is for your community. Leaders should strive to become the epitome of the type of employees they hope to attract. They may not say it, but your people are watching you: everything you do–even if it’s just saying “Good morning”–has a strong influence on the behavior of your staff. Rather than simply telling people what you expect, the best practice leaders demonstrate it every day.

Even with no formal business training, you can go a long way toward becoming a more effective leader by taking the five steps discussed here. Give your team members a clear vision, empower them with responsibilities and targets, and exhibit the right qualities day by day; over time, your people will benefit from your advanced leadership.