I know you have been there: your first day on The Job. No longer one of the guys. No longer on your own, getting your products out there. No. You have people working for you. You officially have a team. You are the Boss. You are A Manager.
Yes. Well. Having said that, 1,000+ questions arise, is my personal experience.
Because what is a manager really? And how to be one? Let alone a good one…
And what is the difference between managing a team/office/business and leading one?
People new to the field often feel under pressure to Be The Leader. Depending on their particular defenition of what a leader should be or do, people ‘enact’ being that person.
To be totally honest with you, I have been there too. When I look back at my first gig as a leader, chairing a student board in university, I acted to be a dominant leader, particularly when dealing with the ‘higher ups’ (the dean of my faculty to be precise). We clashed all the time, and really, the things I said to him don’t reflect my normal empathic personality.
In some cases, they are – or feel – pressured from above to impose their authority on their team. They, the team members, often don’t accept this and start resisting, making it harder to get the job done, making even more dominant behaviour necessary. This is a cycle that doesn’t end. Well, that’s not true. It does end at one point and it’s not pretty. And it is almost always the manager who has to leave.
So that’s not the way to go here.
There was another problem with my initial approach to leadership. You might have picked up on my comment that trying to be overly dominant as a leader, wasn’t my natural take on things. I enacted being a particular type of leader.
That is the biggest problem of my first attempts at leadership, truly. And it’s the biggest problem with most first time managers’ take on the job. We lack authenticity. We play the part, sometimes pretty well even, and we are busy with the processes, the money, the goals and our targets.
But leadership is fundamentally a profession concerned with people. And people tent to respond to other people on a level that’s way below that of the targets and goals set for them.
So, where management is basically about acquiring skills and knowledge and then applying them, leadership has everything to do with who the leader is. His motives, beliefs, convictions and even his emotions and feelings shape his behaviour. To be a great leader, it is vital to know all about these elements of our personalities that we often try to keep away from the office, and getting them in there! Not covertly, but out in the open. Because if you don’t do that and try to hide what’s going on below the waterline, people will still pick up on it and they won’t appreciate it much.
to acknowledge who you are and make sure everybody understands where you come from. That way, people know what to expect from you. They know what you can and cannot do. Why you are disappointed, angry or overwhelmed.
I am not saying that you should get a memorandum out to describe your innermost feelings. What I am saying, is that it is vital to good leadership to be at ease with everything that’s going on below your waterline, and when the circumstances call for it, you are ok and equipped to just talk about what is going with you. Helping your reports understand you.
To summarize: I believe that your first big task as a leader is to get clear on who you are and what your leadership style is. This will make it a breeze to BE the leader, no acts needed. You will be REAL.
I am curious to hear how you see the difference between leadership and management. What are the most important elements of leadership in your opinion? What are your experiences leading (or managing)? Please comment below!
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This is part 1 in a series of 4 pieces on RSJP Leadership.