Search for leaders hard and takes a toll on family
I WAS having a chat with a good mate of mine over a cup of coffee. For no obvious reason we found ourselves talking about leadership and management of people. Somebody must have slipped something meaningful into our coffees.
We started our conversation with an obvious and very common thought. Is there any real difference between the leadership of people and the management of those people? Answer: Yes, there most certainly is ...... but it is a lot more complicated than that.
No matter how excellently the management team might perform, it will be vastly more effective if it is empathetically and effectively led. The task of providing that effective leadership relies upon management recognition that “leadership ain’t that easy”.
The management team “must want to be led” and be open to that process... It is worth realising that, no matter how good the management process is, it will be even better if it clearly understands why things have to be the way they are and the reason(s) for that.
Leadership is much about making sure the management team understands why things have to be as they are... This can only occur if the team is part of the direction-setting process while always recognising that there will be times when they don’t agree with the leadership’s apparent priorities. That’s when leadership clarity and good sense become important.
Is what is being asked of the management team “reasonable”? Have the managers been given real opportunity to be part of the decision-making process? After all, it is often the managers who are the experts in detailed needs, skills available, training requirements and beliefs about what are appropriate expectations.
Leaders must listen to that pool of knowledge, use it or, sometimes, reject it... and make it clear why.
So, we asked ourselves whether some people are born to be leaders. I was born long enough ago in England to have experienced the era when many people believed that there was only a sub-group of people who were “good enough’’ to lead the rest of us. The large majority of the rest of us weren’t.
We asked ourselves the simple question “Do leaders ‘emerge from the pack’ whatever we do or don’t do, or should we always be on a ‘seek and find’ mission”?
Our view was that, at least in a sensitive work environment, leaders, or potential leaders, become evident very quickly. It is incumbent on senior staff in particular to be aware of this possibility. Sometimes existing staff can be “surprised” to find who emerges and who needs to be discouraged. The wrong person vigorously wanting to be the boss can be a very disturbing workplace phenomenon.
Spotting potential leaders is one key challenge to the existing leadership and a crucial component in developing and retaining a happy and effective workforce. “Discouraging the optimists” is important as long as you don’t discourage the wrong people...
We thought long and hard about the age-old problem of how a leader (or other senior staff members) can retain a balance between work and personal life. We nearly concluded that, except in most generic terms, it was not possible; sad, even worth striving for... but regrettably kind of inevitable.
The best one can hope for is that those who one cares about are supportive and that the total lifestyle and its rewards are worth the hours and efforts that go into achieving leadership of a top team. I think they are... usually.
I am certain that no-one should accept a leadership role unless he or she can also accept the fact that they will be “on call” no matter what is going on in the rest of their lives. That suggests the importance of a strong and understanding personal life and great partnership from those around you.