If you are interested in developing your capabilities to step into a leader role or you are a consultant/coach who is working with clients to support such development, then here are a couple of tips that may be useful to you.
The first has to do with the distinction between manager and leader. Both are roles. A role is a set of expectations held by stakeholders of that role: your boss, peers, subordinates, clients and board members or suppliers and regulators. When I step into one role or the other I am managing or leading. It is likely that in many organizations those in manager roles also step into leader roles. But so do other folks who lead from expertise or strategy formation or innovation. They can be informal team leaders, innovators and so on. I still deeply appreciate Joseph Rost’s assertion that no one is a leader (or a manager) 24/7.
When I am in a manager role as Publisher of Integral Publishers, LLC, I try to focus on structuring our organization and our processes in a way that supports our work. My partners will tell you that I am not the best organized guy to perform in this role. That is why, I rely on them to take on important management functions, like Internet image and marketing, accounting, or contracting with authors.
Before I can be effective in my manager role, I need to develop practices that support my doing a good job. What kinds of practices? These range from how I communicate information to my partners, how I include them in decision-making and problem solving activities, and how I management my own time and energy. The latter is most usefully thought of as productivity management practices. There are a number of such practice approaches available, so choose one and actually practice it. A good example is the use of a daily calendar to manage appointments, email, meetings and other activities. A key in this day of connectivity is to limit attending to emails to specific blocks in time on your calendar so that you are not caught in the trap of multi-tasking—a major enemy of productivity.
When I am in a leader role, I am seeking to attract my partners to building a vision, building pathways to realizing that shared vision or developing a game changing innovation. Sometimes, I am attracting authors to create and achieve something that they might not otherwise do. I am not sure I am much better in a leader role than that of a manager, but one thing I have discovered is that the two are connected. If I am not managing my work well, I am not going to do a very good job leading.
I used to think that manager and leader were two different things, that if I were interested in leading I could ignore managing. Well, they are usefully thought of as two different roles (our mental map). But in an organizational context (or any other, I suspect) how one practices the skills of effective managing has an impact on how effective one is in a leader role. Take for example some of the emotional intelligence competencies in Goleman’s and Boyatzis’ approach. Self- and relationship managing awareness and skills are core in demonstrating emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is usually important to effectively managing and leading.
I have already suggested the importance of self-managing through productivity managing. Relationship managing is exemplified by several capabilities, such as empathy. Empathy involves putting oneself in another’s shoes and choosing to communicate or take action to fit with their perspective or worldview. It requires the capacity to even understand the perspectives and worldviews of other people in the first place. It also requires the awareness that these worldviews are associated with different ways of making meaning and making sense of the world.
This does not mean that there is a neat formula for how to do managing and leading. There is a range of skills and practices that I believe are directly and positively correlated with the level of complexity one is attempting to manage or lead. Here is where exploring models of adult development and research on managing and leading can be helpful.
The second tip asks you to consider what it means to change old habits of self- and relationship management and take on new habits. It is usually a tough challenge. There is an important action we can take to encourage ongoing development of our perspectives and skills: get support. Support can take many forms. It can be a formal training program or coaching. It can be peer support in and out of one’s organization. Such support needs to be scheduled and consistent. Sometimes professional organizations provide this, like the Young Presidents Organization. Sometimes it is an informal group that is committed to weekly breakfast meetings to talk about their learning and its implementation. It can involve one’s family, as well. My suggestion is to have at least one and preferably more forms of support for developing the competencies to be effective in managing and/or leading.
About the Author
Russ Volckmann, PhD, is Publisher and Editor of Integral Leadership Review. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org