In the journey of life, we are sometimes privileged to assume leadership roles, where we are entrusted with the responsibility of leading others whether at work, within the family or the bigger society. Oftentimes we fail, not because of our lack of purpose or good intentions but through our leadership actions and inactions.
As a leader, you are ultimately responsible for both the success and failure of the people you lead. Even though the success is collective but the failure is yours. I can almost hear your voice in disagreement, that is fine, but let us have a conversation.
You: “My employees are not committed”
Response: Who employed them?
You: “HR got the wrong guys for the job”
Response: Who approved the recruitment exercise?
You: “But I pay their salaries as and when due, so I expect better performance”
Response: What climate did you create?
My Dear, stop the blame game and take responsibility, which is the job of a leader. Accepted, we all have made leadership mistakes in the past but the consolation is that every failure provides the opportunity to learn and be better. However, to be a good leader you must first understand leadership.
• Leadership is about Influence.
• Influencing others is a matter of Disposition, not Position.
• Position gives authority.
• Authority also comes with Power.
• Leadership is however not about Power.
• Leadership is about effective use of Power.
• Leadership is not about the Leader.
• Leadership is about what the Leader causes others to do.
You see, leadership is difficult, and it is a task that must be carried out by the leader. Below are some of the duties of a leader.
1. People Management
“Managers manage tasks and leaders manage people”
By default, many business owners and entrepreneurs pay more attention to the numbers, understandably, in order to keep the business alive. Sometimes, because of the need to focus on the business, we try to pass the responsibility of people management to the Human Resource Department but we soon realise, and shockingly too that it is a task that cannot be delegated.
People management is crucial to business success and only the leader can do it. Because in the real sense the employees signed up to work for, committed their career temporarily to the leader, not the HR manager or department. Therefore, when we fail to manage the people’s side of the business, the business suffers the consequences.
2. Perception Management
“It is easy and natural for us to judge ourselves by our intentions and the fulfilment of our obligations but our followers always judge us by their perception of our behaviour, and the attendant effect on them”.
It is important for the leader to keep the followers engaged through constant communication because the perception of leadership by the followers determines their level of commitment and commitment will drive performance. Even though in most cases the perception or judgement of followers may not be a true reflection of leadership but in the absence of an alternative narrative, they make up their own assumptions.
Most Leaders get carried away by the sincerity of their intentions and fail to create time to have conversations, in order to find out how the followers truly feel; about the work environment, their personal plans and most importantly about the leader. We sometimes avoid the difficult conversations, perhaps because we genuinely do not want to intrude, so we focus on the job, carry on with our “good” intentions, and fulfil our obligation, hoping that somehow, they will see through our heart but unfortunately, followers are humans, not spirits.
“Beware of yourself. Self, if not deliberately checked and controlled is dangerous and destructive”
One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to drive the vision and get everyone on board. However, be careful not to put yourself before and above others, because no matter how well you communicate the vision, mission and the big picture, if the followers cannot see themselves (what is in it for them) in the picture that you are painting then the picture becomes just another painting on the wall.
As a leader, you need to spend more time to understand the followers; their goals, their ambitions and how they align with that of the organisation. Because the followers need to be convinced that the leader cares about them, and in the absence of such conviction from leadership, they believe and do whatever they tell themselves.