Peter Drucker, the management guru, said "All I know about leadership is that all leaders have only one thing in common: followers!" This sounds obvious doesn't it? But the ability to get people to become followers is an arduous task. Many employees tell management early on, that their long-term goal is to move into a management position in the company. But, to be an effective manager, you must be an effective leader.
A leader has the ability to energize and motivate employees - they become "bought into" the company's goals. Without leadership skills, a manager becomes a taskmaster or a "senior-level administrator".
Interviewing many executives in Pittsburgh, like other cities in the United States, the message is clear . . . "We need leaders". Several corporations are offering training classes in leadership skills or "what it takes to be a leader."
For the new employee in today's fast-paced work environment, where everyone seems to be working in a 24x7 environment, the career opportunities for a professional with leadership skills are innumerable.
DOT-COM ventures need leaders that can energize employees to work in unorthodox cultures at the "high caffeine level". Corporations implementing multi-million dollar technology systems while remaining "lean and mean" cry-out for leaders that can help them hit deadlines. At the same time, while the country is at full-employment and the scarcity of resources continues, companies need leaders to attract and retain talented employees.
The many factors involved in becoming a great leader should not be underestimated. Listed below are guidelines for the employee who wants to move into a leadership (management) position in the company.
- Take the role of a leadership position in the company seriously. Never, ever, ever underestimate the impact you will have on the career potential of employees that will use you as a role model. When Marlo Thomas spoke at Carlow College a few years ago, she said to the young women aspiring to move into a leadership role, "Always remember, a young girl is watching you". Always remember, an employee or subordinate is watching you. You are a role model, and with that comes great responsibility. Your actions will be seen by many as "what it takes to be successful". After all, you are the leader, you must be the best.
- A great leader motivates others to believe in themselves. "Good leaders inspire people to have confidence in them; great leaders inspire people to have confidence in themselves". Sam Ewing, The Wall Street Journal. A great leader does not spend his/her career helping employees realize how great he/she is. A great leader helps others realize the inherent potential and talent the employee has.
- A leader is accountable. An employee who desires moving into a leadership role in the company must be accountable at all times. Accountability at work means "no pointing the finger" at your own staff. If a football team has a losing season, it is the coach who is terminated . . . not the team.
- Leaders do the right thing. Business ethics is taught at every major business university in the country. When an employee moves into a leadership position, integrity should not be an option, integrity is never compromised . . . it is expected. Warren Bennis aptly stated, "Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing".
- A leader always works to improve. The minute a leader thinks he/she "knows it all" is the minute an employee should find a new boss. It is the responsibility of a leader to work to improve in his/her field throughout their career. In addition, a great leader strives to educate himself/herself and his/her staff to become better.
- A great leader "walks the talk". A leader in a company cannot ask employees to volunteer time or resources to The United Way, Epilepsy Foundation of Western PA, or any other group if he/she does not lead the way.
- A leader surrounds himself/herself with great people. When an individual moves into a leadership position, he/she will not achieve great results from a poor team. Today, millions of dollars are lost in the business world due to a bad hire. It is imperative that a leader chooses a skillset to match the expectations. Richard Sloma, author of "The Turnaround Manager's Handbook" said "People are a firm's most important asset. If you have an excellent product but only mediocre people, the results will be only mediocre."
Before anyone decides to move into a leadership position, it is important to remember the weight it carries. Businesses in America today need leaders to help them achieve their corporate goals. You can help the company achieve its goals and change the lives of many employees. A subordinate today . . . could be tomorrow's CEO.