Colorado Springs, CO--Many
of us hold management jobs, but are we really functioning
as effective leaders?
Along with 19 other managers--half of them engineers
from Blue Chip manufacturing companies--I had plenty
of time to ponder that question in a week-long seminar
conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership. Through
lectures, group discussions, test results, and feedback
from others, virtually all of us came away with a better
understanding of the true qualities of a leader.
Here are a few points that may serve as a quick reality
check in assessing your own leadership skills:
My goals versus my company's needs. What capabilities
does my company want in its leaders over the next
five years? If you don't know, ask your boss. Then
ask yourself whether those needs mesh with your
own talents and goals. Do you need to acquire new
skills, adjust your attitude, or perhaps seek a
new job more in tune with your own values and aspirations?
Better self-knowledge. Most of us don't take enough
time to understand our own strengths and weaknesses
and how those qualities might affect others. We
may take pride in our independence and self-reliance,
but do others see those same attributes as making
us cold and distant? Does our drive to get things
done discourage others from contributing their ideas?
Lessons from the past. What people or events have
had the greatest impact on your career? Perhaps
you worked under an autocratic boss who intimidated
people and made them feel inferior. Or, on the plus
side, what qualities can you emulate from that mentor
who took you under his or her wing years ago?
Willingness to empower. The people you manage possess
a wide range of skills and experience. Real leaders
can let go and give authority to others. On the
other hand, they are willing to step in and provide
coaching and support to those who need more hands-on
help and encouragement.
Sensitivity to differences. A quiet, introverted
person who says little at meetings may in reality
have great ideas, but you must take the time to
draw them out. On the flip side, you may be tempted
to cut off the extrovert who babbles on with ideas
that appear "half-baked." In reality,
psychologists tell us, talking is essential to the
thought process for extroverts. They need time to
The evaluation dilemma. How do you review people
without damaging morale? Experts tell us that employees
tend to focus on the negative points. Unless your
goal is to show someone the door, make sure your
positive comments outnumber critical ones. A rule
of thumb: four positives for each negative.
Creating a winning environment. One useful tool:
Think back to a time in your career when you did
your best and most innovative work. What were the
conditions that made this possible? What can you
do now to recreate those conditions for your own
team? Chances are this will revolve around how to
find more time and resources, as well as giving
people more freedom to pursue special projects.
Thinking about learning. How do you typically go
about tackling a new challenge, solving a problem
or learning a new skill? See what happens when you
"go against the grain" of past habits.
For example, if you tend to work independently,
try holding a brain storming session with others.
If there is a "bottom line" to the theories
of the Center for Creative Leadership, it is the importance
of achieving balance in life. Seminar "graduates"
get a simple red button with four white dots--each signifying
an aspect of one's life: self, career, family, and community.
Giving attention to each is the never-ending challenge
for all of us.
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