Leadership – Your Most Important Task

Some of the greatest leaders in history are largely unknown. Why? Because those leaders learned to work with and thru people, encouraging them to take initiative and action on their own. Leadership is all about style and behavior while focusing on four main areas of operations efficiency, planning, organization, execution and control. A failure to get the work accomplished on time with the expected quality is always a failure in leadership. Leading people will always be your most important task. Your diagnostic skill and product knowledge are valued, but you’re now measured by the success of those you lead. You must learn to depend on those you lead for the completion of the work. When you lead effectively there’s little need to micro manage!

Leadership must come from within you. You’re appointed a manager or supervisor but few managers and supervisors become leaders. A leader exists when others willingly follow their lead. In general, reaching established goals through the management of willing staff is leadership. Leadership must be displayed under a wide variety of circumstances. Consistency is key. Leadership is never a function of command, it is earned. So what’s expected of you as a leader, there are a few pre-requisites?

Staff expect you to know the job, understand company policies, objectives & methods and have an open mind. Leadership is a two way street.

The most common objectives of leadership include: Getting work done willingly by others, developing and maintaining a high level of productivity, insuring quality output at the desired quantity and near constant improvement. To accomplish this, you must have knowledge of your staff’s needs and be sensitive to their feelings and reactions. Once you understand people you can better communicate to them. One size doesn’t fit all. Leadership is oriented toward them first and foremost. It must take into account their aspirations and capabilities. A true leader must view all things in perspective! You must learn to relate to the company and those supervised objectively under varying conditions. No one can be allowed to benefit at the expense of another. There are always opposing forces within a company. Those forces must be considered intelligently, interrelationships will always exist.

On the subject of interrelationships, it’s important to understand how your leadership style relates to those above and below you within the company. If you’re naturally authoritative and autocratic, you’ll garner immediate support from above. Unfortunately, those you supervise will be overly dependent on you and full of resentment, leading to staff turnover. If you tend to be passive and excessively democratic, staff will love you but you’ll soon be looking for a job. If you lead on a consultative basis, adjusting to the circumstances and people involved, you’ll increase staff participation and motivation. Leaders recognize that people don’t work for them. They work with and through staff. Accomplishments are always a joint effort and never of the leader alone.

The best leaders develop their ability. The suggestion that there are distinct types of leadership is a generalization. Leaders tend toward one leadership style or another but all vary according to their needs and needs of each situation encountered. It’s important to note that no two successful leaders are the same. We must improve our understanding of our own reaction to circumstances. We must learn to recognize the actions we take and consider their relationship to leadership vs inappropriate reaction. We must learn to understand the feelings that motivated these actions. Additionally, we’re concerned with the reactions of those above and below us. How did our decision affect them? The kind of leadership that comes naturally coincides with our ideas, values and needs. They are the foundation for further development. Once we understand our natural inclination we’re in a position to build on it. Regardless of our tendency, we have to want to change to be better.

Understanding the leadership tendencies of your boss and supervisors will have a bearing on the analysis of your own effectiveness. You may have to adjust your style but as long as you focus on objectives rather than power, success is all but guaranteed.

There is much written about management styles. From production centred to personnel centred, to directive, consultative and causative leadership. None of these styles directly correlate to leadership effectiveness. It’s most important to carefully consider the work group involved. This includes but isn’t limited to your peers, upper management, their goals as well as your natural leadership tendency. By analyzing these as they relate to your own approach, you often find that some adjustment is desirable.

Minor adjustments can greatly improve relationships with staff and upper management. Surprisingly, upper management rarely communicates what you should or should not be doing, but they expect results. You may believe that staff want be told exactly what to do and prefer to avoid responsibility. The truth is that more often than not, staff welcome the chance to show initiative and complete assigned work without detailed instructions and micro management. Never underestimate the willingness of others to accept responsibility. Your staff may have had previous work experiences that conditioned them to avoid taking responsibility. You can change this by simply by supporting and believing in them. We’re quick to blame an employee’s departure on their unwillingness to be utilized but many leave due to under-utilization as well.

A great leader encourages staff to develop and grow, to succeed at things they believed they couldn’t do. This may be the most valuable form of leadership, there’s a difference between being a leader and being a boss. But this is also the most challenging aspect of leadership as it requires that you relinquish some control, while remaining responsible for errors. The errors are usually few and only exist during the training period. Analyzing our leadership style and taking action where needed pays dividends. Should you decide to change your leadership style, it’s best to do so gradually. Sudden changes in leadership behavior are usually perceived as inconsistent. Staff need your actions are reasonable and predictable in varied circumstances. Any sudden changes will erode their confidence in your leadership. Change must be gradual and when possible formally introduced as new policy etc. Regardless of change or not, the focus should remain on results!

Brad Porcellato