David is a best-selling author, speaker and trainer. He is also CEO of IPD, a world-class marketing agency based in Tampa, Florida.
There is a bold line between management and leadership. Early on in my career, I thought they were the same thing.
I was a manager. I didn’t care about morale — I cared about the numbers.
I felt that people should follow my rulings, and any opposition was not to be tolerated. I understood management, but not leadership. I knew how to bark orders, but I didn’t yet understand how to lead others.
This style of management does not breed effective people, it breeds contempt. If you want to lead others, then you’re going to have to learn how to do it effectively. You see, leadership is a skill that can be taught, but there are a few foundational beliefs that you have to possess in order to be an effective leader.
This couldn’t be more true during times of extreme stress and challenge such as now with the pandemic. Today, it is crucial that you lead rather than manage, as your team will be looking to you for guidance. Here are a few baseline things to remember if you want to lead your team through challenges.
1. You’re not always right.
As leaders, we think we have the best ideas and that we’re the smartest in the room, but this isn’t necessarily true. Your idea isn’t always great, and sometimes it’s outright terrible. The goal of a leader is not to always be right, but to have a strong support system around you who will steer you in the right direction when you veer off course.
When I first started my quarterly leadership meetings with my managers, I had to learn that there are other people in your company who have great ideas, just waiting to be uncovered. I had to understand that it’s OK to be wrong sometimes, and to understand when you are is an ability that is worth its weight in gold. Everyone is wrong sometimes, and you are no exception to this rule. The best leaders are those who are open to new ideas and willing to change their own ideas when faced with opposing facts, which brings me to my next tip.
2. Don’t take it personally.
Not everyone is going to agree with you all of the time. This doesn’t come easy for everyone, myself included. But if you go into a meeting with your leadership team and everyone is agreeing with you, then you don’t have a leadership team, you have robots. If your team is worth its salt, expect to have disagreements.
I’m not saying that you should accept obvious insubordination, but you shouldn’t take it personally when your managers disagree with a technique or policy. If they didn’t care, then they wouldn’t voice these concerns. They’re voicing these concerns because they want to strengthen the team. If it’s your organization, you should thank them for respectfully disagreeing with you and for offering alternative ideas. Cherish these individuals and beware of “yes-men.” They inflate your ego while poking holes in your ship.
3. Remember to train.
Being a leader doesn’t mean that you have it all figured out. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You are in charge of not only yourself but your people. This adds numerous factors and contingencies to your day, nearly all of which can be assisted with proper training. Training isn’t just for your team, it’s for you too. Don’t wait for someone to invest in you, invest in yourself.
Read books on leadership. Take notes during meetings, take advice from peers and study. Set aside time devoted solely to training and professional development. My personal time for training is on the way to and from the office, where I often listen to audiobooks on a wide variety of topics. It is this training that allows me to evolve with the times and still remain as sharp as I can be. Train even for just 15 minutes a day if you can. In my experience, training is the only investment that produces an ROI 100% of the time. Find ways to make yourself a stronger, more well-rounded leader.
4. Be positive.
Negativity is a toxin that will spread throughout your team. Don’t allow your circumstances to dictate your emotions. You will either be in charge of your emotions or they will be in charge of you. Come into the office with a positive attitude. If you need a moment, then take a walk or go for a drive at lunch.
While you’re around your team, you must keep a cool head. You can’t be the boss who is unapproachable. Remaining positive in the face of adversity isn’t easy, but neither is leading a team. You have to find a healthy outlet, and you have to force yourself to believe in better things if you want your team to follow suit. All of these tips cannot be fully accomplished without this next, final tip.
5. Surround yourself with the right people.
Your team should be composed of people who are strong in areas that you’re weak. During challenging times, you will rely on your team just as much as they will rely on you. Be sure to hire people who possess integrity and are committed to their craft, regardless of what that craft might be. If you discover later on that your team isn’t the right team, then changes will need to be made. Make sure each individual that you hire will make a positive impact on the group as a whole. You can’t build an empire with a foundation that’s on the verge of crumbling.
Understand that leadership will require practice. You will have days that you feel as though you have failed, but by applying and adhering to these ideas, you will be able to make a positive impact on those you lead. These beliefs define the line between management and leadership.
Challenging times can either make or break a business — your leadership could make this decision.
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Author: David Villa, Forbes Councils Member