3 takes on collaborative leadership: It’s not about you (1/3)

Gwen Burridge




Part 1...it's not about you

When you first become a manager, you soon realise that continuing to do what you did previously, plus managing your team, takes up far too much time, and you struggle to fit everything in. This is because becoming a manager requires a complete 180-degree mindset shift away from your own personal results, and onto the results of the people in your team. You then need to make some practical changes; the first is about what you need to focus on, the second is what you do, and the third is how you do it. Activities such as managing performance, dealing with difficult situations, and delegation provide you with personal challenges that you have to overcome, but you can only master them and become a great manager if you first shift your mindset.

Once you become a great manager, it doesn’t then automatically mean you’ll be a great leader. Great leadership isn’t about hierarchy, power, or authority. If that’s what you want then you’ll never be a great leader, but you’ll be known instead as someone with a giant ego who throws their weight around, rules by fear, and surrounds themselves with people who agree with everything they say and never tell it like it really is. I’m sure we can all think of someone like this, that person who seemed to climb the greasy pole through sheer force of will and determination, but with little time and genuine concern for their people. The realisation that the way you work has to change can be tough because it requires a lot of self-discipline, and to place the highest value on seemingly “non-work” activities such as having team and individual conversations, thinking more strategically, and planning.

One of the biggest challenges for leaders regarding the focus of their energy is the expectations a company has of them, which then leads to their own interpretation of what this actually translates to on a day-to-day basis. As most leaders are promoted primarily on what they know, what they’re good at, their career experiences, and the results they’ve achieved, they may well continue to deliver based on their personal input into these activities, believing that they will continue to be successful. But it’s only when they take a step back to consider what being a leader truly means can they then shift their focus away from these activities and put their team members first.

The best way to identify what needs to change is to find the answers to a few questions. The first and most important one is to start with the end in mind and ask “What are my deliverables?”, which should be relatively easy to answer. The trickier bit comes if we follow it with the question “How can I achieve them?”. If we ask this question, we’re more likely to get stuck straight back into working on them, when what we really should be asking is “What do I need to do to ensure my team achieve these deliverables?”. This then positions the leader to think about the team as a whole, and then each person in the team (their skills, strengths, performance, and development), and it’s only then can they identify what activities they need to perform that will mak ethe best of their skills and strengths, and provide support to improve their performance and development.

So what does this mean? Well, in plain and simple terms it means that a leader’s number one priority should be their people, and how they can support them to be as successful as possible. This will help them achieve and possibly outperform the overall business goals, all of which will reflect much more favourably on the leader.