Being a manager or a supervisor is pretty easy to do. Simply treat employees as chess pieces to be manipulated to get tasks done. Leadership, on the other hand, is very difficult. Mindtools.com defines leadership, “Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or an organization; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.”
How to “set direction, build an inspiring vision and create something new”? To begin, look at what has been written and said about leadership. By no means a comprehensive plan, here are some things to help you begin to change from a manager or supervisor and become a leader.
Hugh Nibley (1910-2005), who was a professor at Brigham Young University, described one important leadership quality, “The leader, for example, has a passion for equality. We think of great generals from David and Alexander on down, sharing their beans or maza with their men, calling them by their first names, marching along with them in the heat, sleeping on the ground, and first over the wall. A famous ode by a long-suffering Greek soldier, Archilochus, reminds us that the men in the ranks are not fooled for an instant by the executive type who thinks he is a leader.”
Managers, on the other hand, according to Nibley, do not care about equality. They do not see themselves as equal to everyone else. They spend their time managing people, treating people like chess pieces to be moved around, manipulated, at will. By contrast, leaders spend their time managing and meeting challenges, using their team to help them. That sometimes means stepping back and allowing their employees, their team members, to lead out. Leaders are “hard on the problem, soft on the people”, according to speaker Mark Matteson. Managers are so busy trying to manage people that they do not address problems. Leaders recognize that problems are more likely to be in processes than in people.
Last year, in the middle of summer 110-degree weather, our air conditioner stopped working. We had ceiling fans that were helpful but we needed the AC to work. The first two companies we called could not get to us for several days. The third company said that there would be someone there the next morning but they would try to get someone there sooner. Two hours later, the doorbell rang. The OWNER of the company was there to diagnose the problem. Our AC is on the roof. He climbed up there in the heat, came back down to tell us what was wrong and promised that he would have a technician there at 9:00 in the morning. Sharp. Why didn’t he fix it himself? All the technicians were out with the equipment vans. He had come to our house in his personal vehicle. AND he did not charge us for the service call. The technician was there the next morning at 9:00 on the dot and the AC was fixed in about 20 minutes! Service was excellent and the cost was half what we were expecting because the company was headed by a real leader.
Another attribute of the leader in business is one who hires the right people and ensures that they are in the right place. One owner realized that the person answering the phones was struggling with answering the phone, delivering messages and covering the customer service phones during lunch hours along with all the other things they were required to do. The owner, a real leader, didn’t want to fire this person. In the process of reviewing the employee’s resume, the owner realized that the employee not only had experience in bookkeeping, they were attending college at night and on-line to earn a degree in accounting. Rather than hire someone new, the owner moved the receptionist into the accounting department where they immediately made an impressive contribution and found someone else in the company better suited to answer the phones. The owner, much like a bus driver, had put the right person in the wrong seat on the bus. When they moved that person to the right seat, they, and the business, thrived. By concentrating on what was right for the individual, the owner found what was right for the company.
The leader goes the extra mile. They give their employees a WOW experience, just as they expect their customer service representatives and technicians to give customers a WOW experience. They are positive, confident, their enthusiasm is contagious, they listen, they care, they give of themselves, their time and their kindness, they add value to the employees’ experience and they express gratitude to their team members.
Business owners who lead are far more successful. Think Steve Jobs or Richard Branson, Thomas Edison or Abraham Lincoln. The world is in need of great leaders. YOU can be one of those great leaders the world so desperately needs.
Mary Burkett was born in Southern New Jersey, raised in Southern California, Mary Burkett is a graduate of the University of Utah.