When trying to characterize the manager role, I usually get the following (ideal) description:
- Engage and motivate the team
- Care for the team professional growth
- Be a trusted advisor
- Lead the way
And yet, in practice, most people that are promoted to managerial roles, get it mainly due to their professional expertise over their leadership skills.
That being done, the manager finds himself in an awkward position. He got promoted because “he knows the best”. So now when he manages people he should tell them what to do and how to do it so that they will do their job as good as he did. This is what he knows to do best.
But how does this relate to the characteristics mentioned above? It is harder to measure capabilities of leadership, so we promote excellent professionals but expect them to perform a totally different role. This often leads to the opposite direction from the leadership definition - demotivating people, turning off creativity and engagement, team becoming “task driven” rather than “goal driven”.
What are the characteristics of a true leader? What should we look for?
Creative, humble, communicative, charismatic, smart, positive approach, etc. The manager should speak the professional language but not necessarily (or maybe, necessary not) be THE expert. He should have the tendency to see the big picture and delegate the small details. He should be respectful to people, trusted by others and courageous to make tough decisions.
The experts, on the other hand, should act as consultants that mentor the team for professionalism and create lobby for great ideas. They should become the leaders without authority.
Together, managers and professionals can grow professional engaged teams for great success.
Jack Knott, the CEO of E-PACK digital printing, once was asked what he is looking for in a manager of a new print factory site. He replied that the manager should not come from the print industry because he is looking for people that can dare to dream and not for people that will explain to him what cannot be done in the print industry.
I think this quote explains my thoughts in the best way.
Further expansion about the characteristics of a true leader as well as real life examples will be part of my future blogs. Stay tuned!