MANAGERS are often viewed as task-oriented, and not necessarily focused on their employees. Leaders, on the other hand, are viewed as people-oriented; they impact and influence as well as motivate their employees, utilising their resources to perform assigned tasks in the most productive and profitable way possible.
Many managers confuse management with leadership, and feel they are automatically leaders because they occupy a position of higher responsibility.
While this assumption is often true, many fail to display active leadership qualities. The roles leaders fulfil are different from those of managers, although sound management practices are complementary to effective leadership.
While some individuals are natural leaders, most managers must evolve into leaders both by investing time and effort in developing their abilities and by adapting their management roles to a more flexible, effective leadership style.
As an executive coach, I have partnered with many executives who have made this transition successfully. There is one piece of advice I give that sometimes comes as a surprise: I tell people to stop doing some things that earned them that management position in the first place.
What makes a leader? Is it a compilation of certain behaviours? Is it style? Is it a certain way of communicating? What do leaders do that makes people perceive them as leaders?
To answer these questions, let’s first look at what makes a good manager. We have all had poor managers, so we know a good one right away.
It’s someone who inspires us, who cares about what we do and how we do it. It’s the person who makes the group work as a successful team. If you’re lucky enough to be on that team, coming to work is fun and challenging. You work hard, but you get results.
Given that description, isn’t a manager also a leader? Are these not leadership skills? What would keep a great manager from being seen as a potential candidate for leadership?
Leaders do share many of the traits of a great manager. They inspire. They motivate. However, leaders take it a step further. They are enthusiastic, optimistic and articulate when talking about plans, hopes and successes. Their enthusiasm energises and attracts others. It brings visions to life.
Leaders sincerely believe in what they are saying and they demonstrate their personal convictions through their behaviours. This is what gives them the confidence to make unpopular judgment calls and to sell ideas that contradict the status quo. It’s what enables them to inspire others to follow them down a difficult road while keeping up the group’s morale.
Leaders must identify the right goals, develop a supporting strategy, and figure out what projects to pursue to secure early wins.
Leaders at all levels of the organisation must demonstrate a high degree of emotional and social intelligence. Emotionally intelligent leaders create an environment of positive morale and higher productivity and this results in sustainable employee engagement.
The critical skills for leaders in transition include having emotional intelligence competencies in effective relationship management, cross-cultural communication, effective negotiation and conflict management.
The reality for leaders in transition is that relationships are great sources of leverage. By building credibility with influential players, they are better able to gain agreement on goals, and commitment to achieving those goals.
Transition coaching has three overall goals: to accelerate the transition process by providing just-in-time advice and counsel, to prevent mistakes that may harm the business and the leader’s career, and to assist the leader in developing and implementing a targeted, actionable transition plan that delivers business results.
While many of the issues covered by transition coaching are similar to those included in executive coaching, such as sorting through short and long-term goals, and managing relationships upwards as well as with team members, transition coaching is focused specifically on the transition and designed to educate and challenge new leaders.
The new leader and coach will work together to develop a transition plan, a road map that will define critical actions that must take place during the first 90 days to establish credibility, secure early wins and position the leader and team for long-term success.
The transition coaching relationship also includes regular meetings with the new leader as well as ongoing feedback. Frequently, the coach conducts a “pulse check” of the key players, including the boss, direct reports, peers and other stakeholders, after four to six weeks to gather early impressions so that the new leader can make a course correction if needed.
Whether a manager is moving into a new leadership position or looking to get back on the road to success, transition coaching works to bring out the best in leaders through the support of a professional relationship with an executive coach.
The relationship is built on a foundation of trust and confidentiality. The ability of coaches to provide leaders with an outside resource that can also act as a sounding board helps them become the successful leaders they were meant to be.
Organisations must clearly define the purpose of coaching, gauge the process, and evaluate results. Coaching is not just about providing support. Ultimately, coaching should deliver what any business needs — real results.
Article by Prof Sattar Bawany is the CEO of Centre for Executive Education (CEE Global), which offers executive development solutions including executive coaching and leadership development programs that help professionals develop the skills and knowledge to embrace change and catalyse success in their industries. Website: www.cee-global.com. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org