Henry Turenne said that you must love your people in order to understand them, and understand them in order to lead them. These words ring true when you look at the challenges that 2011 might hold; making one inanely aware of the various responsibilities associated with being a manager and the people directly affected by it.
These responsibilities almost always include an element of leadership and therefore, when looking back over the year, managers’ performance will not only be judged by how many meetings they attended, or how well they managed their budgets, or even how well they met their targets, but rather by how effectively they influenced the work and performance of their employees. These employees are dependent on their manager, not only for guidance and direction, but even more importantly, to provide a psychological environment in which they can perform their work with a real sense of pride, ownership and satisfaction.
Dr Ludi Beukman, HR development specialist at Softline VIP which is part of Sage Group plc, says that managers simply cannot ignore the importance of effective leadership in facing the challenges of a fast and ever-changing business environment. “I remind myself that if we want to live up to the challenges of 2011, we have to polish off and revisit all those critical leadership lessons or principles that we have learnt over the years, both from other respected and successful leaders and from personal experience through the process of making many (sometimes painful) mistakes.”
When asked to describe the characteristics of an ideal leader, people often provide answers that entirely differ from what they do and believe when wearing the leadership hat themselves. Despite the amazing successes of those who choose to follow tried and tested management principles, the majority of leaders in all sectors of work-life still fail to include them in their personal approach, even after realising that their own efforts are not contributing to the performance of those they work with.
“After many discussions with all types of leaders during formal and informal training sessions and workshops, I am convinced that, amongst many other reasons, people are afraid of taking the initial risk of empowering others. This inherent fear stems from an unwillingness to challenge their own beliefs about people in the workplace. How we see our workers and what we believe about them forms the basis of all our practices as leaders,” says Beukman.
Beukman’s list of key principles are critical in the basic belief systems of great managers:
- People want to feel good about themselves and the work they do. This means that they have a need for finding meaning in their work through deriving a sense of personal identity from doing what they do and doing it well.
- People want to be successful. They do their best when they have the experience of making a valuable contribution to the organisation. They want to enjoy a sense of control over their work. This is gained through the incorporation of their ideas and feelings into the design and procedures governing the work they do and when they feel responsible for accomplishing the objectives of the organisation.
- People do their best when they are allowed to collaborate. They are willing to show extra effort when their own needs and objectives are met by achieving those of the organisation and when it is done through problem-solving processes where all contribute to and participate in generating solutions.
- People do not want to make mistakes. Yet, they do make mistakes. These should always be regarded as part of the developmental and learning process.
- People can and want to do what needs to be done… IF their leaders create the organisational conditions for them to do so. Subordinates inherently have both the willingness and potential to be empowered to do their work with competence and pride.
- All people have the inherent potential to be creative. The leader’s role in improving performance is to eliminate the unnecessary interferences so that followers’ potential can be optimally unleashed.
True leaders have the ability to recognise employee talent and turn it into performance. They possess a keen sense of concern for people, their well-being and their growth and development is essential. “A major research study on leadership recently done by the Gallup Company has shown that the one talent that is most characteristic of great managers is an ability to derive satisfaction from noticing small increments of growth in others. These managers consider their key skill to be the ability to discover what is unique about each person and to capitalise on it,” says Beukman.
“Leadership, and this is especially true in the world of work and organisational life, is commonly recognised as the one factor that has the most profound influence on human performance. This influence is a direct result of the leader’s beliefs about people at work in general. Most of us never ask ourselves how valid our assumptions are. Maybe, here at the beginning of 2011, it is appropriate to take some time to reflect on our own beliefs, and to do it in a critical and challenging way,” urges Beukman.
Leaders are successful as a result of what they are from within. The learning process always starts with committed and focused introspection.
Great leaders do it all the time.