A few weeks ago, I was asked an interesting question about leadership. My head went right into thoughts of the paperwork and drawing insights into the process and seeing things from the perspective of my boss and boss’ boss. In retrospect, it is funny because I was only thinking about it from the perspective of my superiors but I forgot to mention the responsibilities of a manager to his subordinates and peers.
A manager has a lot of responsibilities, but when it comes to his people, here is what he needs to do:
- Keep track of a person’s tasks and progress
- Make sure each person has enough work to do (and is aware of it)
- Measure each person’s productivity
but also, on a more personal level
- Encourage growth
- Help a person get the resources that are needed to be successful
- Keep morale high
- Criticism needs to be backed-up by remedial instructions
- Raise the bar consistently, so improvement becomes a habit
- Make sure your people get the recognition that each deserves
- Understand a person’s strengths, weaknesses and limits
The difference between these two lists is that the first half will get you a solid B. The 2nd half of the list will get you up to an A-. I’m not going to delve into what gets an A. For more info on that, I suggest that you go to http://www.personalmba.com.
The big difference here is that the first part assumes that your people know their jobs and there is no expectation of improvement. So, as their leader, if you have nothing more to offer them (to better themselves) then all you can do is observe and report on their actions. In contrast, if you have people with growth potential (yes, of course all people have some growth potential), then you should be cultivating and encouraging some growth. As your people improve, your employer gets a greater value out of each of them. Likewise, it creates an environment of quality, improvement and excellence. If it happens enough, it will probably spread around the building and generate a lot of positive energy.
As I was thinking about all of this, something else occurred to me: This isn’t just the responsibility of managers. Anyone can do this.
Throughout my career, I have had the good fortune of working with excellent people who gave me plenty of good career advice, which I have tried to pay-forward. Usually, my most valuable mentors were my peers or somebody else’s supervisor. More than half of my bosses were too busy to mentor me. So I got my mentoring elsewhere.
My point is that you don’t need to have a leadership position to encourage growth or improve quality or to be a mentor. Really, you just need to have wisdom and a desire to share with others. That means you. Yes you. That is how you start leading. Eventually, people will follow. And then, the title (to back it up) will follow eventually.
So, don’t settle for a “B”. Set a good example and start leading, no matter what your job title is.