Managers are Appointed; Leaders are Developed

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The familiar text tone from my iPhone heralded the message from my nearly 25-year-old daughter this morning: “I am officially someone”s manager now. Ahhh!”

Bill and I have said to audiences for years, only half-jokingly, that most of the time, people are notified of their transition to management (usually on a Friday afternoon), in this way: “Congratulations! You”re a manager now. And you”ve got all weekend to get ready.”

At least Lindsay got the news on a Thursday.

This is not the first time (recently) that our firstborn has caused my wife”s and my heads to swell with pride, and because I”m her dad, I can”t be particularly objective. But presumably, the leadership of the university where she”s worked for about a year can be, and they”ve deemed that she”s demonstrated a degree of leadership skill and potential worthy of a supervisory role.

I, for one, am gratified that they based their decision, at least in part, on her leadership skill and potential, and not solely on her considerable operational prowess. That”s how it should be done. Unfortunately, too often, it”s not.

If I were to be asked by this new supervisor, for any leadership advice (so far, I haven”t been), here are 5 high points I”d cover:

  • Remember why you were issued 2 ears, and one mouth. Use them in like proportion.
  • Pay 10 times as much attention to appreciating your employees as you do correcting them.
  •  Recall what you”ve admired most about the good managers you”ve had since you began working as a teenager. Emulate those qualities.
  • Be unfailingly kind to those who report to you. And remember how unkind it is to fail to tell someone that they”re not performing up to expectations. You owe them the opportunity to improve, if they”ll take it.
  •  You get what you expect to get. Expect a lot.

If I were asked to give managers advice on choosing, appointing, and leading other managers (now that I have been asked to do on occasion), here are my top 5 as well:

  • Always remember that to lead – that is, to be followed – is a privilege that is earned, never a right that is bestowed on anyone.
  • Leaders, like attitudes, plants, pets, and humans, have to be fed, nourished, and given access to a healthy environment. Don”t expect people to grow into great leaders unaided by training, good examples, and worthy rewards for being effective leaders.
  • Followers will be far less impressed by their manager”s technical acumen than by their proficiency in people skills. Make that the number one criterion for appointment to a leadership role, above all other considerations.
  • Pick other managers to be on your team who will compensate for your weaknesses.
  •  Never equate position on the org chart with value to the org. Just as it”s foolish to turn a great teacher into an inept principal, it”s cruel to turn a great individual contributor into a lousy boss. Especially when done as a “reward”.
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