If you have a management title, you may think of yourself as a leader. But are you? According to Halelly Azulay, author of Employee Development on a Shoestring, there’s more to being a leader than climbing the corporate ladder.
From Halelly’s point of view, a manager is someone who has risen through the ranks as a result of their experience in the field:
‘Management is about getting things done in the day-to-day, managing schedules, workflow, projects and performance’.
In other words, it’s about short-term deliverables: setting immediate goals, delegating tasks, resolving issues, and, if needs be, enforcing policy.
Being a leader is more about inspiring people to pursue a long-term vision. And Halelly isn’t alone in taking this view. Tammy Perkins, Chief People Officer and leadership expert at Fjuri, argues that ‘A leader doesn’t have to have formal power over direct reports’.
Both Halelly and Perkins suggest that you’re more likely to succeed as a manager and become a leader if you develop four key leadership practices:
- Taking the long term view: To lead people into the future, you need to understand what that future might look like: the context in which your organisation will be operating over the next few years.
It’s a good idea to read articles, listen to podcasts, and attend talks (live or online) about trends in your industry and the wider world. If you work in manufacturing, for example, it would be useful for you to understand developments in robotic technology and apply that knowledge to your organisation. It’ll make justifying changes to your team easier and give you an edge on any negotiation with supervisors.
- Developing emotional intelligence: If you want to influence and motivate people, you need to be able to ‘tune in’ to the individuals around you. Emotional intelligence is about being self-aware, empathetic, and good with people skills.
These are all things you can practise by reviewing your reactions to people and situations – particularly challenging ones. How did you react, and why? What could you have done differently? Every observation helps you to develop your emotional intelligence and become a better leader.
- Stay curious: Great leaders are never complacent. They’re constantly pushing themselves to learn new things and seek out new perspectives. It’s important to nurture a habit of constantly looking for new learning opportunities, and to become an increasingly effective learner.
Familiarise yourself with as many opinions and perspectives as possible, and you’ll know what to expect – and how to answer – when it comes to negotiation.
- Seeking other people’s views: Always remember the old adage that two heads are better than one. Actively listening to feedbackis a prerequisite of good leadership. Don’t simply delegate tasks but encourage others to take ownership of their own work.
Ask others for their input on how theythink the team can achieve its goals. You won’t just stumble across some great ideas – your teammates will be far more investedin delivering for you.
Inevitably, leadership is about more than just these four issues – although they are a great place to start. You may have noticed that the four key leadership practices have more to do with giving attention than demanding it. When in doubt, defer to Epictetus, the philosopher who started life as a slave and ended it as one of the world’s most respected thinkers:
‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.’
Great communication is about listening, and effective negotiation is borne from paying attention to differing opinions.
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