Leadership is a quality that people generally develop over time. When people enter management, they must learn a great deal in a very short time. Leadership is a characteristic n e taught, but it is only achieved after gaining respect from others in the workplace.
Line supervisors are expected to lead, but many times, leaders come from employees in the rank and file. In fact, some managers need strong leaders among those they supervise for many reasons, including:
- Managers are better able to focus attention on their own work;
- Lead workers keep tasks flowing;
- It reduces the notion of interference from the supervisor (micromanagement).
Above all, employees need good role models to follow. A leader sets a good example, yet not all managers have mastered the leadership role and may need training. Company executives may need to train their line supervisors for the leadership role. New or potential employees form lasting impressions of others by what they see the first time they meet. Supervisors should have an inside track on the leadership role if they hope to gain the respect of the people they supervise. This will give the supervisor an upper hand at gaining respect.
The “Do-Right Rule”
In his book Monday Morning Leadership, David Cottrell discusses what he calls “The Do-Right Rule.” The premise of this rule is that managers do things right, while leaders do the right thing. Simple word order makes a big difference. It is not enough to do one’s job well; a leader must exercise good judgment when making job-related decisions.
Likewise, the “Do Right Rule” is not something that can be pushed aside at certain times of the day. Leaders need to guard their integrity and do the right thing even when no one is looking. Doing what is right is not always easy, but it is always right. A leader will consistently do what is right when solving problems as opposed to doing whatever comes easiest.
Leaders escape from “Management Land”
Another chapter of Monday Morning Leadership talks about managers needing to make the escape from “management land.” A company does not run itself, and a supervisor cannot run a company from behind a desk. A true leader is someone that is out and about, “walking the talk” of the company’s mission. People respond to a manager who is “in the know.” Escaping from management land allows the a leader to see what is going on in the workplace firsthand as opposed to relying on what others say is going on. Seeing is believing – people can hear that the sky is blue, but if they have never seen the sky, they may not believe it.
Leaving “management land” gives the supervisor a chance to provide to all workers the feedback they need for personal and professional success. If supervisors are stuck in management land, they will not know what issues need to be addressed with employees. But more important than discipline is positive reinforcement. Leaders must know what makes their employees tick. Feedback is as important as praise for a job well done. Employees need their paychecks, but many need to be recognized for good work as well. Many supervisors have come to regret not sharing more in the way of positive feedback once they lose good employees to competitors.
Leaders Know Their Coaching Role
Leaders remember that others are watching them. It is not always what a supervisor says, but what he does, that gets the attention of employees. This goes back to setting a good example, but it also refers to how supervisors address workplace issues with their employees. The key phrase is to be fair, not friends. Managers want people to like them; leaders want people to respect them. Earning respect comes when a supervisor handles situations in a like manner for all employees and doesn’t play favorites.
Leaders take opportunities to teach employees before problems occur. Leaders recognize that coaching has to come before discipline. Most serious issues occur when people do not follow written policies. When there are violations in policy, following the protocols in place for handling such issues is crucial. Supervisors lose credibility if they bend the rules for people they like. A leader recognizes this and follows established disciplinary protocols at all times.
There are many ways that people can assume a leadership role within their workplace. The process can take a while. If workers maintain focus on doing the little things needed to be a good leader, their success will come much quicker and there will be much more satisfaction on the job for everyone.