Do you want to be a manager/leader?

I am currently conducting a series of weekly management training sessions for 2 of our new managers at Firebrand.

One of the questions I asked them to seriously consider and ponder was “why do you want to be a manager?”. At first glance it might seem like a pretty silly question. It’s a natural progression for someone’s career to move up the corporate ladder. Move from a front line producer role to one that takes on management of people and a business unit. However, management is a huge responsibility and not many succeed in doing it well. That is why there are literally tons of books written by “gurus” on management.

In the recruitment industry, we are a pure play professional services business, no major capital investment tied up in manufacturing plants or warehouses, no supply chain, logistics issues of moving products from point A to point B to worry about. Our business is not a complex business, sure, business strategy, company structure are important for a successful recruitment business but the most important element is our people. Motivating our people to perform at their best and collectively deliver stellar performances is ultimately the yardstick every manager is measured on. In order to do so consistently, the retention of key people is vital. In today’s market, employees with skills and talents are highly sought after and hence the freedom to choose whether to follow you or move to another better option.

Not all people in management  positions can lead, I am sure we have all had experiences with bad leaders in our careers. Experts believe that thru evolution, for survival, animals and humans are all programmed to instinctively evaluate leadership potential of who we want to follow. Data has shown clearly that the team with a good leader always outperforms.

So what are the attributes that make a good leader that people will follow? Here are my picks:

1) Trust-able. Trust is the basis of all relationships. People want a leader they trust to keep their word, to back them up in times of crisis, take the lead under good or bad circumstances. People might give you the benefit of the doubt initially, trust is something that must be earned in the long run through your actions (not just words).

2) Decisive. There are no certainties in life but a good leader must have the foresight, wisdom to make educated, informed guesses and then bite the bullet and make decisions. Of course, not all decision are going to be the right decisions but in the event that something goes pear shape, then a good leader re-evaluates and finds new ways to fix it or changes course.

3) Player/Manager. It is my opinion that people today dont blindly follow the leader’s instructions. Perhaps its the Gen Y syndrome. Leaders must be prepared to roll up their sleeves and show them how its done, then the message sinks in. I also have a thing I tell my charges. Dont tell me it cant be done until you have tried it. If I show them that I can do it, well, no excuses so can they. To be able to do that a leader needs to know what he/she is doing, ie. be competent. I have seen too many cases where leaders are hired from another industry to lead recruitment firms. Things appear to be working out fine when things are smooth, but as soon as a crisis hit (e.g. downturn in business due to the economy), the lack of competence or familiarity with the basics of the business becomes evident.

4) Setting the vision. A good leader must have the ability to clearly envisage where the individual and the business will be at in 3 to 5 years time and have a plan to get there. In professional businesses, where the staff are adequately paid (to meet more than their basic lifestyle needs), the most important staff retention strategy is to have a career plan for key staff.

5) Connection. A good leader must be able to connect and communicate the vision, strategy, decisions clearly and often. Emotional attachment is like a roller coaster, we have good and bad days, weeks, months. The constant reminder of the bigger picture, achieving something spectacular and the buy in to that mission is key to keep everyone engaged.

So back to my question. Before you put your hand up, ask yourself why do you want to be a manager? It might be ego, ambition, monetary rewards, recognition, power or a combination of all these things, but ultimately to be successful as a manager YOU MUST WANT TO TAKE THE LEAD.

What do you think are the attributes that make a good leader? Love to get your opinion.

Photo courtesy of Google

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