It's remarkable how many people reach the desired position of team leader without having any prior experience with the position. People frequently struggle to manage others, let alone demonstrate leadership traits. I've had a pretty solid sense of what makes a good boss after almost two decades of working for a variety of people, from the inspiring to the depressing. I've made mistakes and failed as a manager as well. I've mismanaged people, and I'm hoping I've learned what not to do. To summarize, I believe there are only a few key talents required to succeed as a leader. I'm not advocating you forego that management course you've been meaning to take in favor of listening to my counsel, but for what it's worth, here are my two cents based on two decades of experience.
Share your vision with others.
Many CEOs simply provide directions to their employees without truly conveying their vision and purpose. It is much simpler to drive employees to do their best work if they can see the big picture and understand their role in the overall operations, as well as how their actions affect others.
Micromanaging isn't a good idea.
In the last 20 years, I've worked with a lot of micromanagers. I can't begin to describe how claustrophobic it is to be micro-managed as a strong-willed, creative-thinking, independent-minded individual. Holding someone's hand as they adjust to a new job or industry is understandable, but don't take away their pen and dot the Is and cross the Ts for them. A competent leader is similar to a cycling coach. When they require a little extra help, hold on to the pannier, but as they acquire confidence, let go.
Not attempt to be their friend.
You're not at work to make friends with your coworkers or those who report to you. Yes, it is beneficial to have friendly connections with your subordinates, but it is also beneficial to set boundaries.
Concentrate on the important things.
Don't be the boss who raises an eyebrow when your employee arrives five minutes late or wishes to work from home for a week while they take care of a sick child. Of course, if work takes a back seat to whatever else is going on in their lives, address the problem; however, if the employee is performing well and a five-minute delay or a few days of working from home does not affect their productivity or performance, let it go.
Become a coach.
Show them instead of telling them how to do it. It struck me as odd a few years back on a management course that you can't be a mentor-manager but you can be a coach. The course facilitator then highlighted that in a mentor/mentee relationship, the mentee often confides in the mentor about their problems, but a report might not feel comfortable confiding in a manager. Being a coach, on the other hand, does not need being a confidant; you may still encourage, motivate, and cheer them on to greatness.
Be a human being.
For many of us, 18 months of remote work has meant we've been able to bring our entire selves to work, albeit on a laptop screen, from color-coordinated books on the shelves to kids and pets, and occasionally husbands wandering into Teams frames, to the entertainment of colleagues. We've informed each other we need to go to the toilet, grab another cup of coffee, or take care of a crying toddler, and we've seen what our spouses, home decors, and coworkers look like without make-up or workplace clothing. It's unnecessary to lose that personal touch, which also applies to emotional intelligence. Try to read the vibes in the room or a worried colleague's demeanor. Try to be human without losing your professionalism to them.
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