When was the last time you followed advice from a teacher or boss that took you completely out of character? And low and behold, it not only worked, but altered the way you looked at yourself and your so-called limitations. Throughout our lives we generally notice two different types of roles in positions of “control”, people who push us to consider new possibilities, leaders, and people who guide us in getting the work done, managers. Depending where you fall in the spectrum you might be interested in developing one skill set more than the other. So let’s examine the differences and the characteristics you’ll need to adopt to be successful with each role.
How can you recognize a leader and begin to grow in that direction?
- They’ve got vision.Leadership is the art of making people understand that our aspirations to expand are only different in scale; they are fundamentally all the same. The leader’s vision seeks to address these aspirations of expansion within the individual directly without exploiting desires of wealth and notoriety. Vision is about all and personal desires or ambition is merely about more. Ambition is taking and vision is embracing. And you can feel this embrace when working with leaders. Next time you have a bright idea, think about the intent of this idea – is it to bring attention to yourself, to satisfy your personal ambition or does this empower everyone on your team and make them better at what they do? If it is the latter, then you are moving in the direction of becoming a visionary leader – One for all and all for one!
- They don’t play favorites.Leaders have a sense of responsibility or a willingness to respond to everyone and everything around them indiscriminately. Always try and notice where your preferences lie. Are there certain people and projects that you have more of an affinity for. Do you allow those preferences to dictate your choices or do you simply do what is needed?
- They’ve got a magnetic energy.You’ll notice that leaders show a scintillating and invigorating energy that you want to be around. Do you take yourself very seriously? No need to convert into a stand up comedian at the work place. But don’t forget to put things in perspective and enjoy your time with coworkers. If people see you enjoying yourself in their company it can only stimulate pleasant thoughts within them. And pleasantness provokes productivity.
- They aren’t afraid to lose.Leaders have a way of seeking out and confronting problems that is foreign to most. They aren’t intimidated by failures because they know that vision is bigger than individual failures or personal ambition. So next time you have to make a tough choice don’t be overly concerned with preserving your reputation. Just do it!
- They walk the talk.They understand the importance of honing individual competencies. While many people are seduced by the accomplishment of managing or carrying people and projects to “completion”, leaders are focused on transforming themselves because they realize every thought, emotion, and action they perform has an impact on others. When things go wrong are you looking around to blame others or are you seeing what you can do to improve your skillset and stay focused on the vision?
If leaders do so much, do we really need managers too ?
Does a shepherd need a sheepdog? While it may sound a bit harsh to compare a manager to a dog, it takes a shepherd to tell you how indispensable a dog’s role is in his work. Similarly, management skills play a vital role in any organization.
So what does it take to be a good manager?
- They know who and what they need.Good managers can put people together with the competencies necessary to accomplish a goal. They can also organize the tools they need to do the same. Are resourceful and creative words others would use to describe you? If not, get outside of that box! It’s not only liberating, but your team members will also appreciate you seeing their various dimensions and talents.
- They don’t micromanage. They know how to coach and empower their team to get the job done and avoid usurping control unless it’s absolutely necessary. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Next time you’ve got some unsolicited advice to give, you might want to think twice. Trust your team to ask the right questions and only intervene in urgent situations.
- They know how to take direction.While they may or may not be involved in the creation of the vision. Managers know how to respect the vision and understand its connection to their daily work. Who said what to whom? Don’t fall prey to the temptations and distractions of daily affairs and office politics. Good managers know why and what they’re working for.
- They are communicative.They make sure their team is well informed and are responsive when changes happen. They respect the importance of time. They are also clear about what they can provide, to both their leadership and team members. “Oh did I not tell you, our group is no longer a part of that project?” Says your boss after you’ve spent days working on a projected budget for said project. Make sure you’re showing your team the respect they deserve by keeping them informed as information comes to you.
- They build competencies.They have the technical skills necessary to support their team and are keen on supporting their team members’ career development. If your team members do ask you questions about how to proceed in a certain situation, do you have the expertise necessary to guide them appropriately? It’s important to understand their work in order to guide their development, this knowledge will give your team the confidence they need in you to tackle anything you throw their way.
We live in a society that is constantly seeking to trump certain positions over others, leaders over managers or vice versa, and while it’s tempting to prioritize one set of abilities over others, it is also very dangerous. It’s important to accept that your responsibilities will naturally lean more toward the leader or manager end of the spectrum at certain points in life and that’s ok! However, understanding what these positions should be seeking to accomplish and how they complement one another will allow you to have the balance and clarity necessary to be successful with whatever you’re doing.
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