A common question that is often asked is what’s so different about leading compared to managing. It is a great question and a quick search on the internet will reveal the huge diversity of views on this apparently straightforward question. So in this article I am going to offer my perspective on what leading is really about.
Leading Is About Moving The Organisation Forward
A lot is made about the importance of strategy. Ultimately for me leading is all about moving the organisation forward. We all know just how easy it is to get left behind in the fast moving and changing environment. The trouble is that if everyone has their focus on the here and now, no one is paying attention to sustained success in the longer term.
Leading Is About People
Without a shadow of doubt, people who make it to leadership roles are smart individuals. At the same time I am sure we all have encountered people who were smart in the academic sense but still struggled to deliver results. One of the major reasons for this is that achieving results as a leader is about winning the hearts and minds of those that that you lead rather than just the know how. If you cannot motivate and inspire others it is going to be an uphill struggle.
Leading Is About Being Able To Stay Calm In The Storm
Senior level roles in organisations are stressful without a doubt. When faced with a stressful or really challenging situation it is easy to say or do something that you later regret. A good leader is able to stay calm and focused even when chartering through stormy waters.
Leading Is About Setting An Example
As a leader you set the tone. The way you interact with others, behave, treat others and operate as a whole creates the norms or the way we do things around here. If you are running around in a state of fear or stress then so will everyone around you. If you are aggressive and the bullying type, that is what you will create. Take the time to be clear about the example you want to set and then try to operate within those parameters 99.9% of the time.
Leading Is About Making Tough Decisions
Whatever you do there are going to be people who are with you and people who are not with you on the decision you have taken. That is just reality. Faced with this, it is easy and perhaps even slightly tempting to avoid making tough decisions. In the long run however this is just unavoidable. You need to be willing to make the big calls as a leader, even when it might be unpopular.
Leading Is About Being Self Aware
Being self aware is really knowing yourself well. It’s about knowing what your unique strengths and your weaker areas. It’s about knowing how you impact on others. Armed with this key data you can make choices that get the best form you.
Leading Is About Self Belief
Quite simply what makes some people take bold action and others avoid it is self belief. Sometimes people wrongly confuse having self belief with being arrogant or a know it all. For me having self belief is all about having the willingness to take decisions and get into action, understanding that sometimes even the best laid plans will not work out.
Leading Is About Being Willing To Step Up To The Plate
Too often people think that unless they have all the skills, knowledge, experience and the right title they cannot lead. The truth is leading is not about your grade or job title, it’s about your willingness to step up to the plate, be counted and being willing to create success.
In truth there’s a lot to master when you move from being an expert in your professional field. Think of making that transition as continual work in progress rather than task and finish.