In Part-I of my blog published last week I showcased some practices and behaviors bad managers exhibit. In that blog I gave two of the most egregious examples of actual experiences my clients had that stand out as something bordering on inhumane treatment of employees. I did that to present them as foils to what I want to present in this blog, which is focused on their antithesis between managers that belong in the 20% category and who are viewed as good mangers with those that belong to the proverbial 80% (bad). Although real excellence does not seek for a foil in inferiority, showcasing a bad example of a manager can further help understand what a good or great manager and leader looks like in contrast.
As soon as I started working on this blog I realized that I have a major problem: Although many clients come to me asking what they should do when theyve encountered a bad boss, no one has yet come to me for coaching advice on how to deal with a good or great boss! After 16 years of coaching practice I am still waiting for the day and a client to come to me and to say to me, Dilip I have such a great boss that I dont know what to do with myself and how to deal with it. I am willing to pay you for any advice you have for me!
So, I decided to do some research and supplement that with my own observations about clients who are doing well, are happy in their jobs, and who spontaneously extoll the relationships with their boss as we engage in conversations, specifically focused on them. In many such conversations my clients are referring to someone they had as a boss in the past and they fondly recall their memories with them.
Yet another perspective is when my clientswho themselves are in a managerial or executive positionscome to me with a situation they face and ask for my guidance to deal with it in a way that will help them grow in their job and teach them how to use that juncture to improve on their inventory of good managerial behaviors. In a follow-up session with them I often get to find out what worked and what needs further tweaking. Decent managers are always on the lookout for learning new behaviors to improve themselves. In contrast, bad managers exhibit unconscious incompetence, or blind ignorance.
I, too, have had my share of bosses over the many years I have spent in the corporate world and worked with those who run the gamut. I have been a boss many times in my five careers and, reflecting on some key events, I have come to learn what a good boss is and where I myself came up short in that measure in some situations, particularly early in my life.
So, I want to present my view of good managers in this blog two ways: First I want to show some insights on leadership that have profoundly influenced my own thinking on leadership. Some of these insights are easy to share by letting you view the videos that are embedded here and by reading the articles for which I have provided links. There are many others that are not presented herethere are so manybut your going through some of the TED talks and other videos that pop up when you view these on YouTube (on the right-side panel) is a good avenue to check them out and embrace the ones that make an impact in how you think about this topic.
So, please take the time to watch this video by Simon Sinek. Although it takes 45 Mins., it is worth watching. It is after watching this video that youll better appreciate what leadership is and why the 10 characteristics I have listed below matter in good leaders.
The second aspect of this blog is a list of 10 attributes synthesized from my own perspective that defines a good manager/leader. Each individual has their own benchmark of what a good leader is, but underlying all of these variants, there are some characteristics that override all others when you want to separate those that belong in the 20% from those that belong in the 80% pool.
1.Leader first, Manager second: Manager is a position and being a leader is a state of mind and a choice that one makes. It is shown in a compelling way in the video above. Anyone can show leadership in what they do; it does not require a title. So, these two attributes are orthogonal. But, a manager without any qualities of leadership is bound to create problems in how they wield their positional authority and how those who work for them respond to that. A leader inspires vision, action, and lets their followers aspire for things that they themselves usually cannot on their own. A leader also shows them how to reach that aspiration by encouragement, mentorship, giving them a safe environment, and sacrifice. A manager on the other hand, without the basic qualities of leadership simply barks orders and holds their reports accountable for results without understanding what it takes to get things done. There is a famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt on this: A leader does not demand that his followers do things that he himself would not do.
2.Vision/Inspiration: A leader/manager is driven by their vision of how things can be and is adept at articulating and communicating that vision to inspire his flock into daring action. This is a fundamental trait that leaders possess. Contrary to common misperception, traits such as charisma, good looks, and charm are not a requirement for a successful leader; they may yet be a sine qua non for a manager who has no leadership qualities.
3.Expertise: A leader/manager must have superior expertise in the domain in which they want to dominate. Technical skill in the area of their work is critical to have street cred for their reports to respect them and to trust their judgment. Here, technical skill refers to any area of expertise in which a workgroup is engaged. It can span from legal knowledge about a case to the ability to write a clean ad copy for a consumer product. Unsurpassed technical expertise must also be a sine qua non for any manager to provide leadership to their flock. This does not mean that they must have the best ideas in their workgroup; it merely means that when such ideas bubble up within their workgroup they must recognize them, critique them, and decide whether to move forward with them, without suppressing them because these ideas were not theirs.
4.Growth Mindset: A leader/manager with a Fixed mindset is a curse to the workgroup that reports to them. A person with a Growth mindset, on the other hand, is not limited by what they do not know or cannot do (Read Mindset the new psychology of success, by Carol Dweck). Those with the Growth mindset are open to new ideas, are willing to take risks (adventure), and are good at correcting their mistakes as soon as they uncover them, but first acknowledging them openly. Those with the Fixed mindset are sometimes forced to take on risks by their higher-ups and when things do not go well they promptly point their finger at someone to take the blame. Those with a Fixed mindset are also dubbed Learning Disabled. Widespread learning disabilities can be fatal to an organization and the business that they run. Remember, Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all. -Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (1920-2012)
5.Hands-on, Values-Driven: Good leader/managers are hands-on in all their endeavors and do not shy away from getting involved when they see that things can get off-track if they continued on their current path. They have the ability to proactively detect that this is coming and then working with those within their workgroup to set things straight without imputing to their team members the blame. They are also proactive in how they deal with a potential setback or a failure and provide hands-on leadership to get things back on track. Being hands-on is NOT the same as being a micromanager. A micromanager is someone who wants to know everything that is going on without adding any real value to the progress of the task. A value-driven boss intervenes only when they know they are adding value.
6.High EQ: Someone in a managerial position must be smart to begin with. High IQ is mere table stakes or the price of entry for such positions (see #1). This does not mean that a manager must be a valedictorian from top universities; it merely means that they must be above average in their smarts when it comes to their expertise in their domain. In addition they must be wise in how they use those smarts in getting things done. For you to be a good manager/leader entails getting work done through others and knowing what work you must do that will advance to ability of your workgroup by doing the work that only you can do. I have emphasized the last part of the statement because many managers, especially those in the 80% club do not understand the difference between managerial work and the work that only they can do. This difference is critical for the success of any manager/leader and their workgroup. To understand this difference emotional intelligence (EQ) plays a key role in shaping a managers work habits and how they get their work done through others in a seamless, frictionless way!
7.Affection: Studies have shown that good managers/leaders are shown affection (love?) by their workgroup. There is a special bond between such a person and those that work for them and it is this force that helps the team to go above-and-beyond in all that they do. If you have any doubts about what this is and how this works, watch the Simon Sinek video, Why Leaders Eat Last one more time,. Also, read the letter attached at the end of this blog. I do not know who the recipient is, but he is in some managerial position somewhere. This letter serendipitously appeared on LinkedIn just as I was finishing this blog.
8.Tough Love: Good leaders/Managers understand that unless every member of their team does their best and contributes to the best of their abilities that member becomes a drag on their team and the manager is very aware of how this affects the team. So, when some members of their team are not delivering their best, good managers/leaders do not waste time in getting them back on track by coaching and mentoring. Instead of resorting first to the cowardly Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) they are more forthright and direct in how they decide whether to continue their errant team members relationship with their workgroup and do not hesitate to initiate a PIP as the last resort. They recognize that the teams morale is paramount and is dependent on weeding out errant team members and finding them better roles within or outside the team.
9.Recognition/Reward: Good leaders/managers feel secure in recognizing when someone makes a difference in their workgroups outcome. They understand that quick and direct recognition of outstanding contribution requires acknowledgement with specifics about why this contribution is so. So, without waiting for the bureaucracy of processing an appropriate reward they acknowledge a team members contribution with alacrity. They understand that an immediate and open public acknowledgement of someones contribution is far more important than an award secretly given to such a person at a later time.
10.Taking the Fall: Good managers/leaders are the first to raise their hand when things fail and take the blame. They shield their workgroup from the wrath of political pressure within their organization and openly admit their own failings why things turned out the way they did. They are quick to admit defeat and take the blame without pointing fingers.
From my own perspective these are the top 10 traits of great managers/leaders. I am sure there are other traits that are missing from this list and I would love to hear from you, my readers, to know how you rank other traits missing from this list.
Here is short video on how the title for the Simon Sinek video came about. It is only 4Mins.
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.
After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.
During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.
Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.
Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.
Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.
Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.
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