The first step towards leadership is to take the reigns and show your leadership skills before being asked to. Too often people say they will step up when they get paid to do so – as if any organization can afford to promote people and give raises and then hope that they can perform adequately. The exact opposite is usually the case. Organizations want to see someone leading – no matter the size of their group – before giving them more responsibility.
Maybe you work in a group of two or three. Leadership skills still show up in a group that size. If you are in a group of ten to fifteen, leadership skills are more necessary and show up more obviously. The larger the group, the more skills are necessary to manage many different personalities. But the point is that you must demonstrate skills and abilities first – pay and promotion come second.
Leardership Skills – Manage Yourself as You Would a Subordinate
You’ll probably have more freedom in a management position than your previous position. Taking advantage of that freedom is the surest way to alienate your subordinates. Leading by example is still the best method. Your team may not follow everything that you do or work as hard as you – but they’ll only work as hard as their leader. If you are slacking off, they’ll slack off to an even greater extent than you.
Analyze Your Management Style
Managing means different things to different people. It most certainly is not standing by your workers with your arms folded and watching them work. This is another path to creating resentful, angry people. Your job is to make your team as effective as possible. Usually that means working harder than them and staying ahead of them to insure they work as smoothly as possible. Staying late to line things up for the next day, coming in early to see how the day is looking, maybe even physically jumping in with them to help them out when problems arise.
Bully or Boss?
Ask any American if dictators in foreign countries are a good thing and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. Everyone knows that autocrats are a bad thing. Yet many new managers slip into the roll of tyrant soon after being given the slightest amount of power. Yes, someone has to make the final decision and decide on a course of action, but democracy works for a reason.
Your team will have ideas – some good, some bad. But if you don’t even listen to them and keep an open mind, you’re dooming yourself to an unhappy team and probably will look bad to your boss, as well. The strength to listen to your team and take their ideas and run with them builds loyalty and makes them feel like they have a voice in the company… which they should!
No off-color jokes, no playing favorites. Lots of gurus will tell you to learn to deal with diversity. You shouldn’t “deal” with it. Celebrate it! Different perspectives contribute to better solutions. Your job is to figure out how to draw out those ideas from your workforce to enable innovation and propel your organization as far as it can.
The more effective you can make your team, the better you will look. You don’t have to take credit for everything – far from it. You can take credit for building a strong team. Pass the praise directly down to them if it is merited. Your job isn’t to think of everything, but to build and manage a team that can accomplish whatever is asked of it.
Avoid Catchphrases and Banners
A new slogan each week that is designed to “motivate the team” will quickly fall on deaf ears. Unless there is compelling organizational change to back these phrases, they are meaningless and can damage morale. Well thought-out strategies and consistent follow-through are traits of great leaders. Do what you say you will do, and don’t over-promise.
Appreciate Your Team
If they are breaking their backs for you and the organization, make a point of letting them know you appreciate it. Bring in doughnuts. Offer ice cream to your staff on a hot Friday afternoon. Wrangle some money from upper management to hand out gift cards from various stores or restaurants to the hardest workers. Offer paid time off or let them come in late on a Monday morning. If nothing else, walk around and talk to each member of your team and tell them you appreciate everything they are doing to help out.