6 Things Every Leader Should Know

6 Things Every Leader Should Know

1.  Leader vs. Manager

Let’s be clear, a leader is not a title or an appointment.  It is someone who performs the activity of leadership.  A leader cares for and develops his people, leads by example, keeps his ear to the ground, is open-minded and willing to change and most importantly, humble.

A manager is merely an authority.  A manager was conferred authority by someone else and just as arbitrarily as that happened, someone else can take it away.  A manager does things as they have always been done.  A manager is just a channel for instructions.  A manager has no control over his position.

A leader does, because his leadership does not depend on someone else. It is an inherent trait and is irrevocable.  A leader is the ultimate expression of control and influence – control over oneself and influence among others.

So you think you can be a leader?  Yes, you can!  Here are 5 things you have to know if you want to lead…

2.  One Who Everybody Fears, Fears Everybody

Many managers and supervisors use fear and threats to get others to perform.  To many managers, fear ensures compliance.  Fear ensures order.  Fear ensures results.  Managers who resort to the use of fear often wonder why things fall apart once they are not around.  They then assume that it is the absence of fear that caused it and hence resort to the application of more fear.

Fear takes away ownership as all activity then is purely motivated by consequences.  Staff run around trying to avoid the consequences rather than aiming for the goal.  When things go wrong, no one wants to bear the blame.  No one is really focusing on the objectives – they are just running from the consequences.

The manager thus becomes fearful of his staff.  He cannot trust them to obey when he is absent as he is not around to threaten them into submission.  If he cannot trust his staff, he fears what they will do.  If he fears what they will do, he has no influence.  Clearly, this is the path of folly.

Treat your staff well, trust them to do what they are asked to do and always be open to questions and clarifications.  If they are clarifying with you, it means they care about what they are doing – a sure sign of a good team member.  Build an environment of trust and safety.  We all thrive under those conditions.

3.  Take Care of Your People and The Business Will Take Care of Itself

It seems redundant, but tasks do not perform themselves.  No matter how clear the instructions or how simple the task, if done by someone who is unskilled, uninformed or worse, unmotivated, a million things can and will go wrong.

Conversely, no matter how complicated the task or how ambiguous the instructions, if performed by a skilled, informed and motivated team member, you can be almost assured of a positive outcome.

It is always a wise decision to invest in your staff.  Develop them, train them and meet their needs and you won’t have to worry when you need someone to walk that extra mile with you.

4.  Praise Publicly, anything else in private

The sound of your voice and the words you use set the tone of your environment.  A manager who constantly yells threats at his staff creates an oppressive environment full of anxiety and fear and ultimately, mistakes.

Worst of all, your authority is undermined if everyone is bad mouthing you behind your back.

A leader who exhorts and praises his staff creates an environment of calm inspiration.  Your guys know that you appreciate great work and will try to give you that every time.  Who doesn’t like to hear good news at work?

If you really need to give a reprimand, do it in private and make sure no one else knows about it.  Focus on the future and how the changes implemented will benefit the team.  That way, the team member has something to aim for, rather than something to run from.

When you use praise, everyone knows where they are heading.  When you use fear, you never know which direction your team will go.

5.  Train and Develop Your Team

Not many managers understand the difference between training and development.  Training builds knowledge associated with the current job and is used when a team member is new or unsure of how to perform a task.

Development aims at promotion.  Development takes into account the team member’s aspirations and abilities to prepare them for the next position.  Development lets a team member know that you are keen to build them up, that you understand their aspirations and that you want them to succeed.

Training and development, when used appropriately, motivates and invigorates.  It lets your staff know you are looking forward and that you have recognized their potential.  If your staff feel they have a future in the organization, they will be more willing to give their all.

6.  Work is NOT Life

Leaders understand that work supports life, not the other way round.  If work was the most essential aspect of life, why spend time doing anything else?  Why study?  Why make friends? Why get married?

Indeed, a balanced life that is invested in many areas has many benefits.  An active social life, adequate exercise, the pursuit of recreational activities and most importantly, adequate rest leads to a healthier state of mind.  And a healthier state of mind leads to more productivity. It’s a win-win situation when a person succeeds both in his personal life and career.  Of course it’s possible!

A leader knows that a colleague struggling with a health issue or family turbulence will not be able to give his best.  A leader knows that a balanced investment of time in each aspect of life will benefit all of them.  It’s synergy and a leader ensures that this happens.

Leaders know when to give time off for great work and for compassionate reasons.  Leaders know that while work gives a sense of self-worth, it is still, just a part of a greater whole.

Leaders understand life.

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