To Lead or not to Lead?

At some point of your career you may ask yourself a question – Would I be a good Leader? To find out if you’ll fit into this role, you need to know the big picture behind the whole management process and going further to understand all the advantages and disadvantages related to the role of the Leader.

Let’s start with the brighter side of management process, advantages:

First of all being a Manager gives you a great opportunity to help developing other people. Starting from day one, you will be able to effectively support your team members. This means that you’ll have a significant power to help them grow in organization, guide them and what’s more important change their life. Sounds great? It is, what can be better than helping other?

However, together with that opportunity also responsibilities go.  Be careful with advices in cases which go beyond your personal experience. If you’re not CEO, you probably have your own boss which should be able to support you if needed. Other important thing is to help in development process when people want you to support them, try not to force anybody to change their life because you think that this will be best for them. You may cause more troubles than benefits and in worst case scenario your employee will start to look for a brighter future somewhere else. 

Second thing which is worth to mention when it comes to the role of Leader is motivation. Let’s focus only on positive motivation because in most of the cases this will be right path to follow. We don’t want to manage by fear – not that century, not that style.

To successfully motivate your employees, you’ll need to know them. Sounds simple but it’s not. You need to talk with your team members but the key to do it right is to really be interested in what they feel or think about their job. You need to know what problems they have and what’s even more important try to help in solving those problems.

In this process you should be honest and don’t fake anything because people are intelligent, they will figure out that you’re trying to convince them that you do care when in fact that’s not the case. If you don’t feel that at the beginning of your management journey let it go, focus on other aspects and probably at some point of time this will come. It’s like with negotiation skills, some people are born with that and some need to learn it from scratch.

Other thing which is not mention very often is a Vision. Being a Leader gives you opportunity to plan your actions and moves. You will need to find goals that you and your team will try to reach in specified period of time. This process is strictly connected with the Vision that all good Leaders should have.  Vision is the thing that will motivate you and your team to work effectively, it’s the common goal that you should be proud of. Where would be Amazon or SpaceX if Leaders who established those companies didn’t have Vision? It’s a bit different scale but process is exactly the same. Thinking about goals for your team and share it in the way that people will support you with achieving them is the best thing that can happen to you. Good vision can move the mountains.

Next thing are rewards. As a manager you’ll have many available options to reward your employees. First and the easiest way is of course money but believe me or not this is not always the best solution. Salary raise or some bonus will work but only for short term. Some time ago I heard that salary raise can motivate people only for first couple months. I’m starting to believe in it.

As a manager who will try to motivate team members, you’ll have a great opportunity to ask them directly what motivates them the most. You may be surprised how many people will tell you that they just want to be appreciated for the job they did or hear a few good words from their Leader. It just shows that at some point we may forget that maybe money is not the most important reward?

Last of the most important advantages that comes with being a manager is your development. Previously we focused on the Team but there is always a place to work on your skills. Things such as negotiation and communication, effective planning or process management will improve with every small experience or solved problem.

The more time you spend as a Leader the more you’ll be confident in making right decisions. Month after month you’ll face new challenges that before becoming a Leader you would not even think about.

As a Leader you’ll be responsible for things like health and safety of your team members. This aspect is not so interesting at first glance but please bear in mind that during 8 hours which people spend in the Office you need to be sure if they are safe. Any issues with hardware or facility equipment should be reported immediately to responsible employees. It’s very helpful to share such information with your Team. Going through this again and again on the meeting can be boring but this is a part of Leader’s role.

Other challenge relates to Conflicts and relationships between your Team members. If you’ll be lucky, you’ll manage the team where everyone will like each other but let’s consider a bit more pessimistic scenario. You found out that two of your subordinates have some kind of conflict with each other, it slowly affects whole team. Worst thing that you can do is try to wait until conflict will disappear by itself. First of all, talk separately with both sides of this conflict and try to resolve it. Next step if this wont help would be to meet with conflicted parties and act as a mediator. If this also won’t help you’ll need to consider getting involved someone from HR. Usually those people will have more experience in resolving such problems. The ultimate solution of such conflict may end in moving one of the employees to another Team.

Beside that there are subjects related with recruitment process, labour law or results management which should be also considered as a challenges that newly appointed Leader will have to face, but let’s keep those topics for a different discussion.

Based on what we touched you can see that this role has some great advantages and the same time we’re able to point out important responsibilities. Decision of becoming a Leader should be made based on full knowledge about the Role, I do hope that this will help a bit.

Management Styles vs Reality

In the literature you may find many different divisions of management styles. Some of them are more complex some of them are simpler. As always, the through is somewhere in the middle.

I believe that one of the most accurate division has been prepared by Hay Mcber, although I think that we may consider adding some additional styles based on personal experience. But let’s start with official list that already exist in Leadership world:

Directive style – first style that originate from distant past. We may consider that from the start of our civilization all Leaders were acting based on directive style. You can imagine working in Factory or some Farm in XV century, it’s hard to think that your boss will be leading such important undertaking using democratic-type style or by coaching employees. It just wouldn’t work. I’ve mentioned that this style is from distant past because we can assume that other styles started to develop after 50s and in state-owned companies this may exists to this day.

Using this style Leaders have direct control over employees telling them what to do. Such Leaders will not motivate employees and not discuss any decisions with them. Like in army there will be direct order which must be followed without discussion.

When it comes to these days such style may be useful during crisis in company when issues must be fixed very fast. To accomplish the task Leader will have to work with skilled employees which will know how to perform dynamic without additional questions.

Can you imagine that Leader using Directive style can effectively manage Team of people born after 90s?

Authoritative style – second style, and in my opinion the best for stable Teams with experienced specialists. In this case Leader is providing one of the most important things in management world – VISION. Based on this whole team is aware why certain actions are performed and what effect we want to achieve. Person using this style should have strong position within company’s structure and experience based on which credibility can be built. Mutual cooperation is based on trust and Leader’s awareness that team can work independently. From manager using this style you won’t hear very often how to do certain things “You know best – you have this knowledge!”.

I’m sure you have already figured out that this won’t work in new teams or in recently established companies. Employees with small experience will thing that you just don’t care about them while those more experienced will be grateful for your trust.

Affiliative style – third style build on beautiful dream that Leader can focus only on people while other things are less important. It would be great but still we need to deliver certain result as a Managers and based on the result we are evaluated. Leader that will use this style will try to avoid any conflicts in the team and try to make sure that everyone is happy. All issues or difficult cases will be managed by Leader and based on this person in charge will not be able to fully focus on job management and quality. How this will end? I fell that with an overtime, but to be on the same page – this overtime will not be made by Team.

It would be wise to use this management style together with other, based on the situation that we have in the team. For sure such style will be helpful during crisis or when people are leaving company, but you need to use it carefully. Someone once told that “People are your greatest asset” but at the same time we need to remember that our goal is to report good result at the end of the month.

Participative style – while in previous style Leader was focused on good relationship with the team here we go a little bit further. We’re giving Team ability to decide. Here we’ll be able to built good atmosphere and positive environment for cooperation between employees we need to ask one important question – what if the things will go wrong? Who will be responsible for that and how we’ll get out of the crisis?

It will be extremely hard to do this using this style therefore we need to think in which environment such style will work. Three words: IDEAS, STABILITY & EXPERIENCE. Based on this we may consider that companies in IT or Advertising market would be a good place for using such style. Same as in previous style for corporations on Financial market, I’d recommend using this together with other styles and for carefully selected tasks.

Pacesetting style – for the team of Experts and highly motivated employees this style may be interesting. Manager is leading by example showing very often how things should be done and then expecting that certain tasks will be delivered on the same (high) level as it was done by Manager. To finish with a good effect in a long-distance Leader need to feel how Team reacts on such style. It is possible that at some point based on too high standards and pressure our colleagues will start to look for a new challenge somewhere else, where their invention will be more appreciated. This problem may appear in case of young Leaders that were promoted from the position of Specialist.

Coaching style – last style from the list of Hay Mcber but probably most dangerous one these days. Why?

Because coaching is so popular these days that sometimes you may find more coaches than employees in the company. Unfortunately, most of them don’t have a clue what coaching is and that it doesn’t take one book read to become a coach. The reason why I’m saying that it’s dangerous is that people believe “coaches” and very often try to do (in good faith) what they recommend. My advice would be to confirm experience of mentioned coach, education and ask for the overall coaching background.

In case you have met real coach, this person will be focused on building positive environment as a background for preparing strong relationships with team members. Leader will give them feeling that they can grow based on coaching methods and that those advices change not only their professional career but sometimes even approach to personal life. Those experienced coaches will be focused on employee’s development and usually they will use mentoring methods to build their credibility.

As for the additional styles that I’ve mentioned at the beginning. During last couple years I was able to observe such enigmatic examples:

  • Silent Observer
  • Fighting Parent
  • Missing Workaholic

Maybe you’ll be able to figure out what are the general features of those three styles. I’ll tell a bit more about this in one of next posts.