The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. – Ken Blanchard
Who do you think of when you think of the greatest leaders of all time? Maybe you think of a president like George Washington, a Biblical leader such as Moses, or a great industrialist such a Henry Ford. All three of the men mentioned have one thing in common. They were great leaders not managers.
Think about it for a minute. How often do you hear someone speak of a great manager in history that was influential? You don’t. The reason is, being a leader and being a manager are two different things. If you feel exhausted, as though you can never take a day and leave the office and your employees behind, chances are you are managing and not leading.
“Manager” and “leader” are used interchangeably by many of us, but they are not the same thing. If you look in a dictionary you will find definitions for managers that include words such as “take charge” or “dominate”. On the other hand, if you look up “leader” you will find words such as “to show the way”, “guide”, or “influence.” Do you see the difference? Do you see why you feel exhausted if you are “managing”?
Here are four tips for leading which are sure to make your business run more smoothly:
- Be willing to let go.
You cannot effectively lead if you are trying to manage every little detail. You need to properly train your employees so that they are confident that they know how to handle situations that arise. Don’t continue to do a job you are paying someone else to do. If you feel like your employees are coming to you to make every tiny decision in the office after being with you for months or years, something is wrong. Either you have not properly trained these employees, you have not instilled confidence in them that they know their job well, or you have not effectively communicated your goals to them. If you have hired the right people, the right people don’t need to be managed. For tips on hiring the right people, read my blog on Employment Retention Strategies .
- Be willing to learn.
If you have the attitude that you have nothing to learn from your employees, you are managing and not leading. Everyone you hire has a different skill set and something to teach you. Most of the members of my team at LMG did something before they got into Marketing, Graphic Design, or Web Development. They have a wide variety of past experiences as different as the Military, Education, and Banking. From these experiences, they bring a wide variety of skill sets to the table. Everyone knows something you don’t. If you think being a leader means you’re the only one that has solutions to problems that arise within your company, you’re wrong. Take the weight off your shoulders and let your team suggest how they would solve problems that arise.
When you mess up, admit it. When your team does something awesome, brag on them. When you’re not sure how to improve your leadership, ask them. Some may be intimidated to tell the boss what to do better. Simply asking employees about past employers can teach you a lot about what type of qualities your team values in a leader.
- Allow employees to grow in the direction they chose.
I’m going to assume for a minute that most of your employees are not students working in their first job. That means by the time they get to you, your employees have a good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are. In our office, I make it a priority to not set a new employee’s job duties in stone right away. Let your employees show you what their strengths are. Don’t focus on weaknesses. Let your employees grow into a role that fits their interests. Make it a point to ask employees what parts of their role they enjoy and which ones they don’t. No one enjoys 100% of the tasks they have to do in their position 100% of the time, but if you have someone completing a task they dislike that someone else is capable of doing and wants to do, let them do it. If you have a task that needs to be completed, before assigning it to someone specifically, ask your team who would like to take on the task.
Leaders, your role is such an important one. When you lead effectively, puzzle pieces you did not even know how to arrange fall into place. Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc., said it best: “Good leaders often don’t do the work but they make you feel like you did.”*
* Miller, Jo. “5 Ways to Be a Leader, Not a Manager.” Be Leaderly. N.p., 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.