Managing leadership

Showing leadership within a group

Joanna Knight, director at Berkshire Consultancy Limited, identifies how managers can improve their leadership skills.

Whilst all leaders have the ability to manage, only a small proportion of managers have the necessary skills to become strong leaders. Here we identify the differences between leadership and management and explain how individuals must develop their approach to take the next step.

Leadership at every level

‘Leadership’ is a misleading term as it can manifest itself at every level of an organisation. Whether employed as a managing director or a cleaner, individuals displaying strong leadership characteristics will exemplify good practice throughout their careers and exert far greater influence over others.

Maintenance or evolution

The role of a manager is to maintain the status quo, to ensure that things happen according to plan and to maintain consistency throughout operations. By contrast, a leader is judged on their ability to drive and affect change. Inevitably, a leader will have been a manager at some stage in their development, but the issue for many companies is that the individuals leading their organisation are still managers in all but name.

To become a strong leader there are three areas in which individuals must excel. The imbalance or lack of ability in one or two of these areas prevents individuals from making the jump from management to leadership. Leadership skills can be taught, but much development activity does not address the need to balance these strengths equally.

1.Knowing yourself

The first characteristic that leaders must possess is an innate sense of self-awareness. Without being aware of themselves and the way in which they interact with others, individuals will see their progress hampered.

Individuals must first appreciate their position and recognise their own unique contribution in order that they might appreciate the value that others can add. There is no one right way and a good leader will let people follow their own path rather than dictating things to them, providing they achieve desired results and adhere to core values and principles.

This balance between adaptability and consistency is key in gaining the respect of employees. People will respond much more positively to individuals that engender respect and as such it is essential that leaders know what they stand for and are prepared to do to make it happen.

360 degree feedback can play an important role in helping individuals to heighten their sense of awareness, realise their strengths and weaknesses and afford them the opportunity to build and develop a team around them to move the business forward.

2. Leading and influencing others

Influencing skills are paramount for leaders and create an atmosphere in which people feel they are treated as peers rather than subordinates. The individual’s ability to influence the behaviour of others is closely linked their ability to display the behaviour that they demand from others. Someone that doesn’t like challenge is unlikely to create an environment in which people are free to question one another.

This is particularly important because it can have a direct impact on morale. If a manager works on the basis that if they do not comment on people’s work then everything is fine, the implication is that only negative feedback will be given and people are unlikely to be highly motivated or to understand how to achieve peak performance.

Leaders must learn to deal with potentially difficult conversations effectively to demonstrate that they are able to take leadership on issues in order to resolve them. Executive coaching is an effective means of refining influencing skills and strategies.

3. Maintaining a results driven focus

The most important consideration for any business is the results that it is able to achieve and in order that this potential can be realised, people must be prepared to meet challenges and opportunities head-on. An environment that embraces challenge necessitates a greater work rate amongst staff and a 5% discretionary effort from 20 people is the equivalent to employing another person.

An employee that feels valued is an employee that will work harder. In order that staff feel valued, they must be aware that their strengths are recognised, valued and developed and weaknesses are being monitored and addressed rather than being swept under the carpet.

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