To create the type of environment that our staff and employees need and deserve, I think it is important to first change our notions of what being in a leadership role entails.
There is a vast divide between being a Manager who does his job and a leader who enables those in their charge to grow and thrive as humans as well as do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
So often we have this image in our minds of the fat lazy manager who sits in his or her office all day and barks orders to all of their subordinates. Another common trope is the jerk manager who is mean and rude all the time. I mean they’ve even made a movie making fun of these stereotypes with Horrible Bosses. While these people do exist they are not the norm in the world of business management and leadership.
Effective leadership is much more than hastily throwing together a schedule, ordering supplies at the last second and barking orders to your staff as emergencies arise. Lets look at some definitions as we start this journey together to figure out whether we want to be good managers, or great leaders.
According to dictionary.com a manager is,
- a person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it
- a person who manages:
- a person who controls and manipulates resources and expenditures, as of a household.
While a leader is defined as,
- a person or thing that leads.
- a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.
- In Music, a conductor or director, as of an orchestra, band, or chorus. Or, the player at the head of the first violins in an orchestra, the principal cornetist in a band, or the principal soprano in a chorus, to whom any incidental solos are usually assigned.
Now notice between the two definitions a manager has a slightly passive connotation when considering their roles, while a leader is active.
A manager holds down the fort, stays under budget and creates a schedule that is as efficient as possible and then sits back and occasionally directs work flow.
Meanwhile a leader is on the floor in the trenches with his crew actively leading them in real time. A leader looks to the future creates a clear picture of where they want their organization and staff to be and then executes their strategy. While a manager is reactive to the things around them, a leader is proactive, looking for any hiccups that may come up and providing support to his or her team so that when mishaps do inevitably happen everyone knows what to do and has time to do it.
My Own Real World Experiences
For the sake of full disclosure I have been on both sides of the fence. Once when I was working for an indoor go cart racing track in California, I didn’t bother to look ahead to see if any holidays were coming up or if any of the surrounding schools had a break on the horizon.
I made out my schedule based on the skeleton crew that we needed during the week as the bulk of our business was done on the weekends and holidays. My lack of planning caused chaos for both me and my team as the very next week one of the schools nearby was out for spring break a week before all of the other schools had planned to be.
If I had been a leader and looked at all of the surrounding schools spring break schedules, I could have saved both me and my team a major headache and extra stressful work day.
After that week I made sure to ensure that all holidays and school breaks were accounted for on the schedule. I looked ahead, created a strategy, included my team in those preparations and executed that strategy.
Learning From Past Mistakes
While we are on the subject of mistakes, I think that it is important to point out a few things here.
First of all- Your staff do not expect you to be perfect unless that is the persona you have created for yourself. Good luck with that by the way. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be a genuine person to your crew. Share your failures, share your weaknesses. Ask them for areas that you may need to improve yourself.
It is vitally important for the cohesiveness of the entire group that they all know that they can approach their leader if they have an issue or advice from their perspective. Be open and transparent with them. If you don’t have an answer tell them rather than pretending and pulling an answer out of your butt. I can’t tell you how more respect and loyalty you will garner by being humble and honest with your team.
Another short story about the go cart place. We would host big corporate events where businesses could come in and rent out the space for their employees and have the race track to themselves and they would order food and it was a great time for them.
Needless to say a lot of work went in to making sure they had a great time and almost always they would leave a fairly large tip at the end, because you know, tax write off. Anyway, I would always make a point to be visible and help with everything that I was able to. I would run the front desk, answer calls, get the party more drinks the whole nine yards. When it came time to cash out the tip and distribute it between the crew I would never take any. $400 tip and we had four staff there for the party not including me, each one would get $100 extra that day.
After awhile, some of the staff would force me to take a portion of the tips also. I had earned their respect and trust by proving to them that their well being was more important to me than extra money.
You can chose to be a good manager and handle your business as it comes at you. Likewise you can be a great leader and handle your business before it gets anywhere near you.
You can chose to let your staff worry about whether or not their day will be filled with unexpected twists and turns, or you can prepare them for what may be coming their way and stand next to them to accomplish whatever goals you have set out for yourselves that day.