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Managing to Be a Leader

What combination of personality traits, professional training, and mentoring makes the “best leader?” There is a dearth of information on this topic in both management and social science literature, and no one has formulated a recipe for concocting all that leadership implies: authority, administrative skill, effectiveness, initiative, foresight, energy, influence, and more.The complexity and mystery of leadership do not permit a simplistic approach.

The apt expression “tool box approach” has been used to describe an effective leader’s skill in choosing the right style at the right time in a given situation. To be a successful leader, a manager must appropriately combine three major abilities -technical, human, and conceptual, or the ability to work with methods, process, procedures and techniques, the ability to work effectively with people and the ability to view the organization as a whole, deal with abstractions, develop ideas, and see cause and effect. The following points are distilled from contact with effective managers who have learned to balance these three abilities.

Be Situationally Relevant: Since many mangers spend an overwhelming amount of time in personal negotiation and conflict resolution, they must be appropriately trained in the art of human intervention. They must have the ability to grasp the concept of the situation, make on-target decisions, and act decisively to minimize complications and defuse potentially difficult situations.

Set Clear and Reasonable Objectives For Themselves and Others: Plan… Plan… Plan…Managers need to do their homework. Effective managers know that setting objectives, outlining the steps required to achieve them, and delegating tasks appropriately to each person are all necessary components of bringing a project to fruition. The development of a system that maintains these objectives (like a wall calendar) is a good sign of an effective leader and time manager. Any major projects must be time-lined backwards from completion date to incipience to verify how long they will take, and to create intermediate goals to keep the employees and management motivated.

Listen, Write, And Articulate Effectively: Leadership positions require effective communication skills. Basic confidence in the art of information sharing is absolutely necessary for effective leadership. Although mastering all of these skills is ideal, it is not always necessary. Creative leaders can develop teams to support them in areas of weakness. One of the strengths of a leader is the capacity to recognize those communication areas in which he or she is weakest and then to supplement them. If for example, the area is listening, a leader might request a written summary for follow-up. If the area is writing, they could delegate the writing up of their ideas. No effective leader, however, can delegate the ability to articulate. Verbal communication must be an effective part of a leader’s repertoire.

Develop Your Own Style: No personal style is better than another. You can only be as effective as you are comfortable doing what you are doing. One of the most difficult situations to overcome is inconsistency between thoughts and emotions. People need to respect their leaders and believe that they are in control of the situation. Attempting to “act managerial” if your style is more folksy and low-key will only lead to a misperception of your ability to handle a job.

There Is No One Way That Is Right: A new leader never says no to an honest suggestion without seriously considering it’s merits first. Even if you disagree, try “Can it be done another way?” “I will keep that in mind, thanks.” The possibility always exists that others might have a better suggestion. An employee who is less burdened with responsibility may come up with a creative suggestion that the manager is too busy or involved to see. A sense of shared ownership through input and involvement creates loyalty and commitment in a team.

Work With, Not Over: Use positive reinforcement-no matter what the initial quality may be -to create feelings of involvement. According to Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, there are three types of feedback for performance. “Seagull mangers” are managers who fly in quickly, make a lot of noise, and dump on everyone. As a result, productivity goes down. “Let alone zap managers” are managers who are seldom seen except when an employee does something wrong and then ZAP! they get it. Since the Zap manager never reinforces performance, productivity also goes down. Finally, “positive regard managers” provide positive feedback as often as they can, spending time looking for work that has been done well. This does not rule out criticism, as long as the manager recognizes that criticism may be presented in many ways. Constructive, supportive criticism achieves the maximum desired effect.

Maintain Professionalism: Leaders must be positive role models. They wear a heavy mantle of responsibility, since they represent the status quo and the standards necessary for their employees and employees to maintain. The higher the leader’s standards, the more likely it is that others will rise to a similar level.

See Into The Future Creatively And Practicality: Planning day-to-day is obviously important, but a good leader needs to see the long-range picture, to know the history of the organization and have a sense of the direction in which it is traveling. Effective leaders always have the long-range picture in mind as they plan laterally.

Recognize The Value Of Group Presentation: Like a convoy, you are only as fast as your slowest ship. Unless your slowest team members are brought up to speed, you run the risk of losing them, along with the momentum of your group. Therefore, sharing the whole picture with team members and providing them with whatever training, supervision, and support they require pays off in the long run. High initial input pays high returns with human investment. A successful manager makes sure that the team members have the tools they need to handle a job most efficiently and with a minimum of stress.

Be A Human Resource Development Person: Show a commitment to your team member’s personal and professional development. It pays to care and to be supportive of the human needs of a team. Work is not accomplished through task orientation alone. A good leader fosters esprit de corps, which keep employees motivated. Team members are happy when they feel that their leader appreciates them as individuals, and when team members are happy, work goes smoothly. As an additional benefit, loyal team members become very protective of a leader or an organization over a hump.

Action Orientation: Delegation is essential to an effective leader. Managers who must do everything themselves are not leading, they are just working too hard. Effective leaders become master planners and, through the proper utilization of their resources, the central point of all information. They learn how to gather the individual components together as a check point on any project. The team completes the labor while the planning, design, implementation, and follow-through remains the leader’s function. Leaders need to be or become technical experts on all the projects being conducted. As both politicians and chief executive officers have learned in recent years, leaders are always accountable although they may not be directly responsible.