Five ways to become a better leader

1.Understand the difference between leading and managing. In his book What To Do When You Become the Boss, Bob Seldon, an experienced manager and business coach, says that you should differentiate between the “mechanical” job of managing, or getting things done, and the inspirational work of leading. You can be made a manager with a job title, but only when your team follows you of its own free will have you become a leader.

2. Know when leadership is required. Leadership is “path-finding”, managing is “path-minding” and operating is “doing”, writes Seldon. Examples of operating are things like writing reports and making decisions in your field of expertise. Managing activities include coaching team members to increase their knowledge and defining job-roles. Leadership includes acting as an example to your team and conveying a vision of where the team is going. As the boss, you should spend less time operating and more on managing and leading. Note how much time you spend doing operating-type tasks and aim to reduce this over time.

3. Use the right tool for the job. Broadly speaking, there are two ways to go about managing people: a “task”-based approach and a “relationships”-based approach. For example, clarifying somebody’s job requirements is a task, but mentoring and coaching is about relationships. Selecting people to do particular jobs is a task, giving them feedback afterwards is about relationships. Knowing which approach to take and when – or if a combination for both is needed – is tricky and down to personal style. Getting it right pays dividends.

4. Communicate. In his book 100 Great Leadership Ideas, Jonathan Gifford quotes former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina who said that you have to spend 10 times as much time communicating as you first think, especially during periods of change. People might not understand you, or be resistant. “Tell the team as much as you can, as often as you can,” says Gifford. Constantly repeat important principles or messages at any opportunity you have.

5. Stay in touch. It’s easy to become isolated as the boss, but personal contact with people on the “front line” is priceless, says Gifford. Don’t get hung up on organisational structures and hierarchies but go straight to the person you need to talk to. That way you know the message has been delivered, and you also get to know more people in the organisation.

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