Expectations on the Leader
A leader has to face more than just the task at hand. Often they also have to face perception. I was reminded of a book I read called The Work of Leaders. It was written by a team of four authors at Wiley Press. I heard one of the authors, Julie Straw, present a briefing on their research. One thing item got my attention at the time and I thought of it again. I shared these thoughts once before but time also deepens our perspective.
Straw mentioned a survey on employees asking about the shortcomings on their leaders. After distilling it down they came up with three primary issues that people have with their leaders. They are, in order,
- Employees want leaders to be more active about finding new opportunities for the team
- They also want them to focus more on improving process and making things easier for people
- Finally, they want them to spend more time motivating and encouraging their followers
Interestingly, what struck me about this was the comments themselves. Certainly number three is a quality that leaders should embrace. In fact, a leader should spend the vast majority of their time encouraging people, equipping people, and motivating them to become better than they are. But the other two items, #1 and #2, are not really leadership issues; they are management issues.
Manager or Leader
One of the things this tells us is that many people put management and leadership in the same bundle. When people say that the leader should be more active about finding new opportunities for the team and focus more on improving process, they are really saying that these are behaviors they would like to see in their managers that obviously they aren’t seeing.
Remember the simple formula:
MANAGERS are about PROCESS, LEADERS are about PEOPLE
Therefore seeking new opportunities and improving process, making life easier for employees; those are the job of the manager. Equipping, empowering, encouraging, motivating, and growing are the roles of the leader.
That said, to be a truly effective manager you must also be an effective leader. In fact, perhaps what the results of the survey really tell us is what people would like to see. They would like to see managers be more proactive in their management roles but also better leaders than they are now.
A Leader is Grown Not Born
Above all leaders have a responsibility to grow their followers. It’s an enormous responsibility. However for a leader to grow others, they must first grow themselves. You cannot give what you don’t have. I think leaders are recognizing this more and more. Another survey cited in the book The Work of Leaders is about what people think they need the most in order to be better equipped for the jobs.
What was number one?
Leaders Sail the Waters Daily
When sitting in a boat you are surrounded by the tools you need to sail. However, you may not have any knowledge about sailing. Therefore to use those tools effectively you must spend time developing and applying sailing skills. You develop the skill to gauge the wind, navigate the water, trim the sails, and plot the course.
You then bring all these elements together to move in the desired direction on the water. Sometimes it pays to be mentored by a more experienced sailor. There is learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. And you must do all of this day in and day out to become the sailor you desire to be.
Leaders Develop Intentionally
If you are not developing your leadership skills on a regular basis you simply will NOT grow to become an excellent leader. At best it will be inconsistent or very slow. Books and newspapers are full of stories of leaders who are only willing to grow so far. They aren’t willing to make it a deliberate part of their life. As a result, they only realize so little of their potential.
Leadership growth occurs best when it is
- DAILY – you must do something every day to develop your skills
- INTENTIONAL – you must have a plan for the skills you need to develop and how you will develop them
- SCHEDULED – you must set aside time on your calendar for it; otherwise any excuse will help you avoid it
- GUIDED – Someone needs to help you see and navigate the process; like a coach or mentor
- PROGRESSIVE – build on a skill one by one; don’t attempt to master anything in a day
Spend time on developing yourself and your people than do on management or process problems. When you do, you will be surprised to find how many management problems seem to take care of themselves.