“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision
comes from passion, not position”. (John C. Maxwell)

The topic of management and leadership are ones that are close to me because I have been in those roles for a long time and my personal ethos is about enabling others to grow. The issue is that business and politics often do not demonstrate “pure” values – let’s not be naive here, however, with this post I want to dispel some tips for those aspiring to head into management – in other words, become a leader, not a manager. I would say that roughly 80% of those in the business of overseeing people are managers, to them, it’s more about a position, whereas 20% of people are true leaders because leadership is about the purpose and conveying that purpose to people who fully embrace it.

These are just a few tips from notes I jot down and hopefully, you’ll find them useful for you:

Build your self-awareness

The first thing I really want you to look at is yourself and what you want to achieve by moving into the “supervisor” role. Start your journey by becoming aware of what it is you want – are you about a position with stars and stripes on your shoulder, authority, and rules, or are you driven by a true purpose? Have a clear sense of direction of where you are heading along with the right moral values that give you purpose.

Don’t mix the two.

Some people have a purpose with wrong intentions that actually, when analyzed are all about position and power, not enabling others. Therefore your challenge be it in your personal life or professional is to find that purpose, especially when moving to this type of role.

Constant change

As you move into people management and aspire to become a leader you need to ask yourself three important questions:

  1. Where are you looking to anticipate the next change in
    your work and life?
  2. Who are you spending time with?
  3. What topics are coming up for discussion?

Rosalinde Torres notes that great leaders find ways to distill these questions and gain insight to understand their potential discontinuities through asking the tough questions about how prepared you really are for the change that is coming.

Examine your environment

As a leader, you will need to often adapt and change course without while maintaining your integrity and principles and true leaders often have an uncanny way of doing so. A leader can scan the environment they are working in and come to decisions based on what is happening around them. There are 4 strategic drivers in a business environment that you need to stay atop of:

  1. Understanding the business challenges you will face in your role within the organization
  2. Understand the key business drivers that impact that business
  3. Understand the overall technology that is changing how your customers interact with your business
  4. Understand the regulatory environment in which your business operates

As you build your awareness of these strategic drivers you become more tuned to what is happening around you. Never stop learning, scanning the environment, and adapting so that you can mobilize the community (in other words your employees) to move with you. Many managers and leaders fail hard on this. Don’t be part of that bucket.

Company culture

This is a big one. If you are stepping into people management then you need to understand that you now represent a culture towards others (regardless of whether it is great or poor). The thing about company culture is that it can change. Company culture to me is something tangible because it is about behaviors. Leaders can create winning cultures by building vision, values, and purpose from which everything else then flows. If your employees are enabled and see their own growth in the culture, then expect to move mountains.

Comprehend  communication

I have come across many who believe they are great communicators, but they do not inspire, they cannot convey a message the way it needs to be understood. As a leader, I believe you need to understand how to communicate – at all levels, breaking all boundaries (I’m not saying to break hierarchies all the time), and x-departmental. I’ve come across organizations that kept to themselves, however, information cannot reside in only the positions of authority but they need to be conveyed correctly across the entire network. Be more than a manager, through consistent change be compelled to spread the vision of the future and build a collaborative culture that breaks down siloed thinking.

Diversity matters

This is important. Learn to go past your ego and build a diverse network of individuals around you. People who are smarter, quicker, know other things than you because this diversity enables you in a people manager role to receive different perspectives and prevents you from stagnating. Going back to point number 1, you need to learn that what may have gotten you here is not necessarily what may get you to where you need to be. Therefore build an authentic network of diverse individuals that you enable and who enable you.

Coaching

This is something you should put on your agenda to learn. Coaching, mentoring and such is something that is important for both your mentee, but also for you as a mentor (Aside from that, I encourage you to seek a mentor.) Leadership is something that needs to be cultivated across a company, and when you start building those skills early on, you begin understanding how you can enable employees (not manipulate certain individuals) – or other aspiring leaders – by guiding, mentoring, or helping them reflect on issues within the business and how to overcome those challenges.

This point often, in my personal opinion, often goes back to what I mentioned in point 4, company culture. Harvard Business Review mentions that companies that have coaching and development programs tend to have the ability to;

  • Create a high-performance culture
  • Optimize employee performance (not just increase the unnecessary workload)
  • Inspire and cultivate a collaborative environment

Vision, Values & Purpose

Don’t just be someone seeking authority, money, and power. Be a leader and have a mission. Create it from your vision, values, and purpose. Going back to the roots to understand this one:

  • A Mission Statement defines the company’s business, its objectives, and its approach to reach those objectives.
  • A Vision Statement describes the desired future position of the company.
  • A Purpose expresses the organization’s impact on the lives of customers. (Many companies lack this in its purest forms – their purpose is “to make money,” to me that is not the true purpose of business)
  • Values are the organization’s essential and enduring tenets. They are a small set of general guiding principles; not to be compromised for short-term financial gain or expediency.

After understanding these, look at your own vision, values, and purpose and remember – don’t be an ass, follow your values for human conduct.

Growing others

Most people in management will grab tight what power and authority they have while scratching and clinging for more. But if you can build your rapport on the above points and then invest your time and resources to develop those around you, you’ll enable high-performance teams by developing talent.

Create a safe space for employees to grow and risk, develop, and fail. Learn to grow others and as you progress in your career create a pipeline of potential talent that will carry your vision and translate that into successful leaders within their roles in their own right.

Authentic

Be yourself. Walk the talk. Be humble. Those are three key aspects of Leadership that will inspire others into action. As a leader know that one thing is certain, you will fail, but learn to fail quickly, create supportive environments and conditions to succeed. And again, just be yourself.

In closing

These are a few thoughts about leadership that come to mind. Did I fully dispel everything around each, no. I just want you to get a gist of my thinking. Leaders are people who set direction, build inspiring visions, create the “new.” They take people where they need to do as a team/organization. It is a dynamic, exciting, and inspiring role, and often humbling (more so than one would like to admit), but it’s not all roses and sunshine. In the end, it’s about progress and business. The importance of you being/becoming a leader is about encompassing all the above-mentioned topics to enable you to grow and be successful in your career. Not just focusing on money and power.

Remember, it’s about leaving a legacy. Be remembered for who you are/were.

My two-cents. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter or comment below.

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