3 Steps to Enabling a Great Leader…

3 Steps to Enabling a Great Leader…

As a leader, the importance of recognising one’s worth as an enabler rather than an extremely competent doer is essential.  If you do not do this you will negatively impact the team, end up doing more work yourself and be less competent than you were before you were promoted.  Not pretty… so how do you do this…

Firstly, you must reflect on what is being expected of you.  It is so easy to make assumptions about what is expected.  I have worked with leaders who thought the increase in salary meant that they needed to output more.  They forgot, or did not realise, that their role was to enable their team.  So, they worked longer hours and their team became less effective.  Whilst, what the team needed was more of the leader’s time.

I think that their managers make assumptions about the leader’s ability.  They assume that their new leaders know what is required because they mentioned it once and provided no further clarification.  This is most likely based on their own experience when they themselves were expected to fill in the gaps.  They assume that the new leader is ready for big picture thinking, strategic thinking and creating a vision.  The new leader is then left to their own devices and being unclear what is expected of them, carry on doing what they did before.  This, unfortunately, in time reinforces the managers belief that they are not able to let go of the detail or delegate.

A question that the managers should ask is: How can I help my new Leader to make the transition to becoming a Great Leader?

It is important to create tangible actions in order to answer this question, these could fall broadly into:

  • Set the vision
  • Lead a team
  • Set the agenda
  • Provide direction and momentum

All massive tasks in their own right, so what is needed is that these are broken down into small stepping stones.  A focus for each activity coupled with realistic timelines, supported by coaching and mentoring will help them transition into an effective leader.

How should the manager do this?  By setting clear expectations and agree with the Leader what support they will need.  This will prevent them retreating back to their comfort zone and help them feel engaged and connected to their new goals.  

These steps will help to enable the leader:

1) Make sure that there is clarity on what is expected and keep it simple.  Often when a task feels overwhelming or complicated it can be neglected or forgotten.

2)  Gain agreement for the expected outcome, clearly and concisely state what is required e.g document, presentation etc.  This must serve the needs of the leader, team or organisation

3) Help them to understand the challenges, issues and opportunities faced.  Assist them to recognise that as a Leader, it is their role to bring the team together to define the vision, goals and objectives, rather than creating it in isolation.

I have worked with managers are looking for their leaders to be in the detail and have all the answers, whilst having a strategic vision for their part of the business.  This dichotomy is what causes the challenge.  It is very difficult to do both, the likelihood is that they will feel overwhelmed and revert to their comfort zone of being in the detail.  Thus neglecting the areas that they need to develop.

Give the new leader time and space whilst being consistent at all times… this will help them become the best leader they can be.

Stop Doing and Start Leading

Stop Doing and Start Leading

I have worked with many STEM professionals, who have either sought to be promoted to a leadership role or have found themselves in one through merit.  They often are looking to be recognised for their expertise and when they find themselves in the new role are shell-shocked that they are no-longer being asked or rated against the complexity or volume of their output, rather on: how they lead their team, interact with stakeholders and drive strategy.

They are then left to find their feet and work out what is expected of them, they hear phrases like “you need to manage up”, “you need to have emotional intelligence” or “you just are not driving the agenda”.  They leave their feedback sessions bewildered and unsure about what is expected of them.  So, they work harder, longer hours, making up for the deficiency of their team, they explain their inability to do some of the client liaison, strategy and leadership because they are too busy.  Thus, they hide in their comfort zone and everyone, including them, loses out.

I believe that this could be managed so much better if people were more overt about what is required and to stop confusing their new leaders by wanting them to keep doing what they are excellent at e.g. being in the detail able to sort things, whilst developing new leadership skills.  Presumably, they have been promoted because it has been recognised that they can step up.  It is important therefore, that someone else is identified to fulfil the tactical details that they used to be involved with.   They can then properly start developing their role as a leader.  And why does this happen? Because this is what happened to the manager when they were promoted into the Leadership role.  So, the problem perpetuates itself (and will continue to do so if we do not do something with this generation of leaders)

What is the answer?  It is time for existing leaders to recognise this issue, and to understand what they are asking their new leaders to do and how it is a contradiction:  Be in the detail whilst also keeping a high-level overview!

The new leader themselves also needs to take responsibility for this themselves.  Why did they want this promotion was it the gravitas, money or to be the best leader they can be, assuming the latter then we have something to work with!