Anybody with the right Title can be a good Leader…

Spoiler alert: the right Title is…  well that actually doesn’t really matter.

Does this sound familiar to you: a friend works at a company with all the structures and classic roles you can think of from the Board, through VPs, down to the ever-popular “middle Management”. Odd and disturbing (but sadly not uncommon) is that upper management has so much say in what goes on in the lower levels of the company.  Even the company’s CEO and founder.  Because of this – in many cases, much of the work that gets done under heavy management attention tends to be very tedious and these projects are, mysteriously, the ones that do not go so well.  Staff are aware of this, and as a consequence try to “hide” things in order to avoid being in the crosshairs. Management then tries to get a tighter grip, and quite often use their power (or their perceived power) to scare and intimidate people into doing things. This breeds more of the behavior that they are trying to eradicate in the first place.  

I remember in a past job, one of our board members who had just recently joined the company said in a meeting “when I arrived here, I was astounded.  Things like coffee machines were being discussed in board meetings while some ‘million-heavy’ problems are being snuck past upper management”.  She was absolutely right and we all know why. The management level was too focussed on, well, managing.

They may have forgotten (how) to be leaders.

The Author-Duo Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones mention in their Harvard Business Review article that there are popular myths about what the term leadership actually means.  The one myth that is most prevalent:

 – everyone can be a leader –

It’s a deceptive thing to think this might be a myth. Of course, it takes much more to being a leader than just your key to the executive washroom. There are many executives who made it to where they are because they can play the political games needed to get ahead.  That says a lot about them being strategists, but it says little about their people-skills. Leaders can be found anywhere in the company, not just in the corner offices – rank is irrelevant. The born leader can be on the shop floor, preaching the good word and motivating people from that level.  

So ask yourself: Am I a good leader, a bad leader, or no leader at all?

That’s basically up to others to decide.  I don’t like to be bullied around and I love to have fun doing things. I’ve always had a problem with being given orders like “do what I say, or else”. I guess that’s why I have always treated my teams the way I do – they can do whatever the heck they want, just as long as the end result is what it should be. I simply ask myself, what kind of Leader would I like to have. And then I be that person.

My advice?  Never give the feeling of “me boss, you do what I say”.  Also – in the spirit of being a participative and enabling Leader – don’t just give your team the feeling that you are on the same level – actually be on the same level. It’s just that someone has an overall view of things.  You can get things done in your team – together.

Growing with it…

There are a number of ways that leadership can grow – “that’s good, bad or mediocre”… Just visiting  a bunch of management trainings is not enough. Potential leaders can go through many forms of formal training, but what counts in the end are real life experiences. 

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These have to be made possible, or even facilitated.  They build character and bring the leader-to-be ever closer to being able to deal with exactly those themes when confronted by team members who need guidance or just a shove in the right direction. Companies need to find the right mix between “Leadership/High-Potential Programmes” that target only specific individuals, and giving their entire staff enough opportunity to grow, expand their knowledge and become exposed to as much as possible. Because hey: the next Leader could be – should be able to be – anyone.

And when leadership works properly, the workforce is more willing to perform better – willing to – not just enabled to, and definitely not forced to.

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