I wanted to bust some myths about what it means to be in a leadership position. When we move up the proverbial corporate ladder the actual view is very different from what we had expected from this vantage position
“I’m the boss”
“You’re a leader”
Quite literally the verb “to boss” means “give (someone) orders in a domineering manner”.
Whereas “to lead” is defined as “show (someone or something) the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them”
I think the difference in your expectation vs reality is quite evident in the definition itself. No one likes a bossy persona, but everyone follows a leader. Remember the position of leader might not automatically confer respect on you. You need to earn it yourself.
Being a leader doesn’t mean giving orders and supervising. It means taking control, showing initiative and leading by example. If you want your team to succeed follow Peter Drucker’s Law of Organized Performance: The ratio of a leader’s performance to those on his or her team remains constant. i.e. if you want to improve the performance of your team, you must first improve your own performance.
Let me quote E.M Kelly in saying:
“Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says “Go!”- a leader says “Let’s go!”
“Everyone has to listen to me”
“You have to listen to everyone”
And when I say this it means you have to make time for everyone on your team, understand their point of view and counsel them when needed.
What make a good leader an exceptional one is the ability to listen. This means creating a safe environment, showing empathy, encouraging proactivity, problem-solving and most importantly maintaining a sense of humor. According to Peter F. Drucker emotional intelligence accounts for 80-90 percent of the difference between average and outstanding leaders and is twice as important as IQ. When you can show your team that your door is open, that you stand with them and that you don’t take yourself too seriously it keeps them positive, motivated and stress free.
“I know it all, and I have all the right answers”
“Everyone has limitations, and no one has all the right answers”
Yes, if you have been selected to lead a team it is probably because you possess skills required to lead but a word of caution: Just because you now lead a team doesn’t mean you always know the right answer or the best way to do something. Remember #2 listening is important. To be a good leader first understand your limitations. Second, learn to recognize strengths in others. Third, learn to accept when you are wrong. Fourth, create an atmosphere of synergy and collaboration where the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts
(☺ I know this last inequation is driving all you engineers nuts)
“I will get all the glory for the team’s success”
“The glory belongs to the team. The failures are yours to own”
A wonderful example I read was about warfare: If an army loses a battle it isn’t the fault of a single or bunch of soldiers. It is usually because of wrong strategical decisions taken by the commanders. However, when they win it is because each and every soldier performed courageously under good command.
As a leader, you need to know that a successful project is because of the team’s efforts and as such you should always give the credit to them. In fact, taking credit is selfish and can alienate your team.
When it comes to a failure instead of looking for someone to blame, you must hold yourself accountable, analyze what could’ve been done differently and take it as an opportunity to learn and adapt. Blaming team members is discouraging and demotivating
“I’m already amazing at my work. Now I can relax”
“It is now your responsibility to constantly improve and evolve”
A leader uses every opportunity to grow. Know what you are truly exceptional at and continue to hone those skills. Take the time out to acquire new skills, build on your strengths and realize that beyond technical competencies lies a whole world of soft skills that can further your growth and make you an invaluable member of the team. Read, do research, develop new concepts, plan and dream. We all have the same number of hours in a day, to grow as a leader you must make the most of the time you have. Yes, you will be busier than ever, multitask effectively and prioritize to manage your time better. But never ever stop learning and growing.
In conclusion, I will use a quote from my favorite guide on leadership and management
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” – Lao-Tzu