Leaders vs. Managers
Many people comment on the lack of leadership abilities in most managers, complaining that many managers do not set good examples, do not empower employees to play a role in decision-making, do not listen to those that work for them, and do not give their employees credit when credit is due.
I searched for some statistics to determine how typical this experience is. Do most employees think their managers are less than effective? As I started my search I was already worried. The first website I found that defined leadership qualities and listed “examples of good leaders in modern times” listed only sports figures. It wasn’t a sports website, but if Brett Favre, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, and Jerry Rice are the epitome of leadership, I’m worried about the American workplace!
One survey by the Center for Creative Leadership reported the following: only 4% of respondents replied that leaders currently perform at a competent level with respect to employee development, and only 31% believed leaders currently perform at a competent level with respect to ethics, integrity, and values. Communication, ethics, and ability to construct a clear vision were found to be most valued in leadership.
Disappointment in leadership seems to be a common topic of discussion. The point to reflect on is this: leadership and management are essential to any organization’s success, but the two concepts are not interchangeable. Leadership means different things to different people, but its characteristics are often reflective statistics: poor leaders lose battles while good leaders win them. An ex-submarine commander states, “Average people well-led will succeed, while good people poorly led will fail.”
So what are the characteristics of an effective leader? The following are on the “top 5” list of behaviors of spectacular leaders, drawn largely from “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner:
- Model Professionalism: do what you say you’ll do, communicate your values and honor them in your behavior.
- Create a shared vision: have a clear image of where you are going, and be able to show others how that future image benefits all.
- Challenge the status quo: be aware of the processes and standards in your business, and experiment to find better ways. Don’t be afraid to fail and try again.
- Enable and empower others: engage everyone affected by a decision in the process, and use the process to raise the skills of the organization.
- Get personal: show appreciation and spend time with your organization, customers, and suppliers by spending time with them, get to know them and give them genuine recognition for a job well done. Build a corporate culture with rituals of celebration.
American workplace leadership needs quite a bit of help. Focusing on the above characteristics while hiring, promoting, and developing leaders is a good start towards improvement.
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