Leadership in Management
As we looked at some of the most Essential Qualities of Leadership recently, I made a few references to things we’ve likely all seen folks with authority do that pushes a team away from them rather than earning the kind of influence necessary to truly lead. While I believe possessing leadership qualities, and being very intentional about actually using them, can help anyone in a position of authority be more effective, holding a title alone does not equate to being a leader!
I can’t count the number of times over the last twenty years where I’ve heard an organization’s senior managers referred to as the leadership team. There are certainly plenty of examples where the folks in management roles have also earned the kind of influence necessary to truly lead the people reporting to them but I’ve seen just as many scenarios where someone supervising or managing a department has struggled leading silent prayer. In many of those situations, it only takes a few minutes to identify the person who really does have influence with the team and is the actual leader - whether they have the title that goes with it or not…
When the person who’s earned the influence necessary to lead has bought into the organization’s purpose and their motives line up with that, great things can happen regardless of their title. But when that person isn’t part of the management and they’re less than an exemplary model of employee engagement, we can find ourselves with a handful of trouble!
In many cases, someone moving into a position of authority who hasn’t had the opportunity to earn influence with the team they’ll be responsible for - whether they have some excellent experience but are coming from another organization or they’re coming up through the ranks internally and just haven’t had the exposure to situations where influence is built - will be faced with some challenges! If their approach is to simply rely on the positional authority that comes with the title, they may see some short term results. But if they don’t invest the energy into earning the influence needed to lead, it will likely be just a matter of time until any positive results they experienced initially turn into discord.
Even the newest person in a supervisory or management position can take some immediate steps that will help their team buy into the company’s overall mission, and Cindy and I outline several of those in a complimentary webinar we offer called Building Buy-In Around a Clear Mission & Vision, but they’ll still need to take some very strategic steps in earning the influence that will help them lead in way that increases their effectiveness as a manager.
Show Em Who’s Boss!?
Let’s take a look at some things that just about anyone can apply to earn genuine influence and lead the team they supervise or manage more effectively. While that may seem like a pretty lofty promise, I really believe it’s much simpler than it’s usually made out to be…
Just to make sure we’re on the same page though, let’s start with a few examples…
You recently finished up some classes in your off time while working your full time role. You apply for and are offered a position managing the department that you’ve been a part of for the last several years. You’ve always gotten along well with everyone you worked with but they’ve never had to follow your instructions. But starting next Monday, you’re going to need to establish some boundaries and make sure they respect you in this new position. The work environment has always been fairly relaxed but you know productivity could be better if there was less talking and more working. This is your chance to show your boss they made the right decision AND prove to everyone who had previously been your peer that you’re in charge now… Anyone who’s caught slacking off will get one warning, but the hammer is coming down after that!
You’ve been with your company for years and you’re finally offered a promotion. You have a lot of long term friendships with the people you work with but now you’ll be their direct boss. You’ve been on family vacations with a few of them. Your kids play sports with some of their kids. Maybe you even hang out with a couple of them outside of work. A few days into your new role, you notice a few of them have wandered off from where they should be and don’t come back for close to an hour. It’s not break time or lunch time; what’s that all about? Are they trying to take advantage of the friendship and get away with something they would have never tried with the old boss? Since you’ve been friends for so long, you give them the benefit of the doubt and let it slide. It happens again a few days later, and then again… Gosh, calling them out on it could hurt the relationship. Maybe it’s best to just let it go, especially if they’re still getting the bulk of their work done?
Supervisors, managers, and business owners typically carry a ton of responsibility for getting results. I’ve seen scenarios just like the ones I just shared, as well as a whole bunch of others, play out when someone accepts responsibility for the results of the team around them. It can be incredibly difficult to handle those situations when we’re close with the people involved. It’s almost always far easier to get it wrong than it is to get it right! And our concern about damaging the relationship just adds to the pressure.
But does it have to? I don’t believe it does! I believe real influence - and leadership - is earned by folks in positions of authority when they’re willing to address difficult situations like the ones in those examples. I really believe the key lies in addressing the issue without belittling the individual - but we HAVE to address the issue!
If we don’t address it at all, we lose respect from everyone seeing it go on. If we put it off too long then blow a gasket, we’ll likely damage the relationship AND lose respect from everyone watching. But having the self discipline to set and maintain proper expectations, then hold our team accountable to those expectations moving forward, goes a long way toward earning influence and it should strengthen a genuine relationship.
How about when we’re in a management role and we don’t have long standing relationships with the people on our team? How can we earn influence and leadership with them?
The New Sheriff in Town?
There are certainly some unique challenges we could face when we move into a new position of authority, and leadership responsibility, for a team of folks who had previously been our peers. But what if that’s not the situation we’re in? What if our first day with the organization is also the day we have to start managing processes and leading our new team?
If you’ve been around me very much at all, you’ve likely seen me quote John Maxwell as saying that “Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership!” Since leadership is so critical to achieving results through a team of people, someone new to an organization really needs to be prepared to flex their leadership muscles from day one, right?
Before we jump right into showing everyone that there’s a new sheriff in town, we should probably consider what I’ve heard John share just as frequently, “Leadership is Influence. Nothing more, nothing less!” And it’s highly unlikely that we’ll earn the kind of leadership we need to lead our team effectively long term by jumping right in and barking orders… If we’re really set on being that new sheriff in town, we may consider taking more of an Andy Griffith approach rather than taking a page out of the Roscoe P. Coltrane playbook!
Being willing to earn influence with a new team is critical, and it doesn’t have to be a daunting task that takes years to accomplish. We just need to be intentional about developing and practicing those essential qualities of leadership we looked at recently!
There’s often a balancing act we’ll need to engage in when we’re new to an organization and expected to deliver results even before we’ve earned a lot of authentic influence. When we can manage the processes that we’re responsible for overseeing by appropriately using our positional authority while investing the time and energy to serve the team members performing each of the tasks, we can begin earning that influence right away. As we continue to learn about them and their respective roles, while looking for opportunities to help them grow, we develop strong relationships, build buy-in around what the team is working to achieve, and create an engaged atmosphere!
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