Being a Leader

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Over the years, I’ve discovered there is a big difference between being a leader, a manager and a supervisor.

Managers are typically defined as people who have been put in mid-level positions who is tasked with planning, organizing and directing departments. Compare that with supervisors who are in a position to give instructions or orders to subordinates and are held responsible for the work and actions of other employees. I have found that supervisors usually report to managers.

However, being a manager or supervisor does not necessarily translate into being a leader. Having led various teams, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that leadership isn’t about power. Rather, the key to leadership is motivation. Does the person in charge create an environment where the team can shine and thrive? Or does that person choose instead to create an environment where the team only responds with minimal work in order to get the boss off their backs?

There are different leadership styles and traits, which have been discussed in numerous places. My experience has shown that there are three traits that work well for leaders:

  • Collaboration
  • Communications
  • Trust

Collaboration … Working together with the team is key to being a good leader. Walk the walk, talk the talk. While the manager may delegate a project to his or her subordinates, a true leader does not ignore the importance of showing the team that he or she is not afraid to participate and work toward a common goal. If it’s just about delegating and giving orders, then team members tend to become bitter or disconnected.

Communications … A critical component to leadership is open communications and sharing of information with the team. A sign of a poor leader is the unwillingness to share information. I’ve heard it said that “knowledge is power” so that translates to me that some people choose to keep all that knowledge to himself because that leads to perceived power. But if the rest of the team, who typically does the daily work, doesn’t know what is going on, then the work is done improperly or time is wasted by re-work. If all the information is shared early in the process, then the quality of work from the team is higher. Not only is communication important for sharing information, but creating an environment of open dialogue can lead to loyalty and support from team members. Just remember that collaboration is not about control or micro-managing the team; it’s about supporting each other through the process.

Trust … As Wikipedia says, trust is a relationship of reliance. Reliance on each other as a team and reliance on the boss as a leader to do what is right for the team and the company. When there is collaboration and open communication, then it’s easier for a leader to earn trust from his or her team members. A surefire way of losing trust is for a manager or supervisor to delegate all the work and take all the credit for projects. A way for a manager or supervisor to show leadership is to push the praise and credit down to the team, without taking any credit himself.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

I had a boss who was fantastic at this, and also willingly took the blame when things went wrong. She earned loyalty by realizing that errors on her part in communication or collaboration led to mistakes on our part as a team.

These are my take on just a few leadership traits. I know there are others, and would love to hear your thoughts.

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