Leadership means different things to different people. Not all managers are good leaders, but good leaders usually manage well too.
Management is about control. You can control quality, time, and money. Each one of these has a direct impact on the other two. It’s a delicate balancing act. For example, increased quality often requires more time and money to produce. Go short on money and quality will suffer. Spend too much time delivering on a promise, and it will cost you. So on and so on.
Notice I never mentioned people. Some think you can control people. That’s an old school of thought that remains on the books century after century. Today’s conventional wisdom says NO. You don’t control people, you must lead them.
I’ve seen a beautiful illustration that has been attributed to General Dwight Eisenhower. The story says he used to take a chain and coil it into a pile on a desk. He would ask his subordinate commanders to push on the pile and tell him where it will go. Of course, no one could say for sure.
Then Ike would tug on the end of the chain, gently pulling it out of the pile. Link after link would fall into place and go wherever he directed. Lesson learned. You don’t push people, you pull them along. They follow your lead.
The Leader Shift
The shift from management to leadership is a critical step in the growth of any executive who is responsible for people. Is your leader-shift in gear? Are you in full swing recognition of the need to shift your mindset out of simple control by management?
Remember when you were first put into a management role? Weren’t you freaked the fist time you held a team meeting? It was odd having the faces look back across the table. You realized things were now different. You were no longer a single contributor.
What changes did you think about then? Likely you were undergoing a seismic shift in the thoughts you had. Before you were worried about your personal deadlines, but now you had responsibility for the whole crew.
Or if you are an entrepreneur and you hire your first small team to build your business, remember that feeling? Yes, writing that first payroll check was daunting.
Regardless of which scenario is your story, clearly a shift had begun. Now the question is, do you still have a shift happening?
Growth Is Not Optional
For anyone in leadership, growing in the role is not optional. OK, if you want to get fired soon, you can refuse to grow. However, anyone with a glimmer of hope for success will embrace the idea for finding ways to grow. Moving away from a management mindset to a more fully developed leadership thought process is a learning experience.
Leadership skills can be acquired. You don’t have to be born to lead. It helps, and some are born leaders, but most are not born with it. You learn from examples and you study effective leadership. Plus, you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot lead without a base from which you give; give knowledge, give expertise, give inspiration. As the world around you changes, you must grow with it.
Pursuing your own personal growth helps you build a following. It has been said:
I agree with that synopsis. You have to have a following to be a true leader. Being a leader in your own mind without a following, is well, just narcissistic.
The Shift is Not One and Done
Making a productive shift is not done once and for all. It is a process that must be embraced. The process requires a loop. As with any change management effort, making a key change requires design, structure, implementation, feedback, adjustment, and repeat.
Repetition is the secret sauce. Making a shift in your leadership style stick will need practice and repetition. You have to experience the impact of exercising your new ideas and skills. The experience enforces the learning. The learning needs to be done again so that it becomes more of a natural habit for executing.
Just like athletes at the top of their game rely upon muscle memory for maximum performance, top executives also have a leadership memory that can kick in for better performance. As you get confronted with challenges, you shouldn’t have to think too hard through the leadership toolkit to make decisions. It should become more natural.
You get this natural flow of your leadership effectiveness with process, growth, and practice.
Get Your Shift Together
Want to move beyond just managing your world? Want to be a better leader? Then go out there and get your shift together; leader-shift that is.
Question: When was the last time you made a shift in your leadership approach?
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