If asked to distinguish between management skills and leadership skills, it might seem like a trick question. Aren’t all managers also leaders? While many would argue that in order to be effective, managers should have leadership skills, often times this simply isn’t the case.
Most managers might have a team that they “lead” in terms of delegating tasks, planning, budgeting, measuring performance, determining job specifications and staffing. While these skills are very important for managers to have, there are some key elements missing that are essential to motivate staff.
For most organizations, managers have a specific and essential function—to enforce rules and processes that are already in existence. Managers perform necessary daily tasks like making sure that employees are showing up, doing their jobs and accomplishing objectives. Managers also take note of employee skills and give recommendations on further training. They organize tasks with productivity in mind and always have their eye on the bottom line.
Managers are the key element that makes complex processes work—so what’s the problem? Why wouldn’t a manager be considered a leader?
While it’s incredibly important for everything that managers do to get completed on a daily basis, a completely different set of skills is needed to motivate, engage and drive a team of people.
Why Leadership Skills are Important
Many leaders have the same organizational, business and executive skills that managers do. So what makes being a leader different from being a manager? In addition to those important managerial skills, leaders also have skills that are related to motivating, inspiring and empowering their team. Here are some of the crucial skills needed — and actions to take — for effective leadership.
The ability to listen. It might sound easy, but it’s sometimes hard to find managers who take time out of their busy schedule to actually listen to their team. Leaders who listen have a snowball effect. When leaders humble themselves and investigate employee comments and concerns, team members feel heard, empowered and motivated to continue to be more thoughtful going forward.
The ability to establish a vision.
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis.
The ability for a leader to describe, clarify and persuade a team, or an entire company, to move full-speed toward their vision is a vital element of leadership. If a leader is able to effectively convey their vision and convince, it creates an organic and infectious motivation within an organization. When a leader’s vision is made clear and all employees are on the same page, it gives an organization the ability to make that vision a reality.
The ability to involve team members in the planning process. Team members know their roles and functions better than anyone. It’s important to have a clear vision, but without team member buy-in and contribution, it may feel forced upon them and the vision may not align with what team members believe to be the highest priorities.
The ability to boost morale. Great leaders know the importance of a positive company culture and morale. Creating positive morale is all about discovering what employees need to keep them happy and motivated, then finding the balance between that and organizational success. With great leader-to-employee communication established, creating a positive company culture is simple.
The ability to communicate openly. Successful leaders make communication a top-priority. Transparency is of utmost importance and the best leaders are not only open to constructive criticism, they request it frequently.
The ability to trust the team. Just as managers delegate, leaders must also delegate. However, the difference is that leaders trust their team members. Leaders try their hardest to let others make decisions, even if that means sacrificing their own opinions. In an excerpt from the Harvard Business Review article, “Empowering Your Employees to Empower Themselves,” author Marshall Goldsmith writes,
“I knew a CEO who was the leader of one of the world’s largest global organizations. He received feedback that he was too stubborn and opinionated. He learned that he needed to do a better job of letting others to make decisions and to focus less on being right himself.
He practiced this simple technique for one year: before speaking, he would take a breath and ask himself, “Is it worth it?” He learned that 50% of the time his comments may have been right on, but they weren’t worth it. He quickly began focusing more on empowering others and letting them take ownership and commitment for decisions, and less on his own need to add value.”
The CEO’s commitment to giving up control and creating an environment where others can take ownership and be empowered to make decisions allows for leadership among employees to flourish. It’s not that the CEO didn’t have good ideas — it was simply more important for the health of the company that he let others run the show.
The ability to empathize and display emotional intelligence. While skills like empathy are considered “softer” (possibly with a negative connotation, and not considered “essential”), emotional intelligence and related skills are very important to lead effectively. Studies have shown that emotional intelligence actually correlates directly to performance.
The ability to embrace change. Great leaders are not resistant to change — they embrace it. Leaders know that change is inevitable and they take time to understand why an organization should make changes, as well as how. Good leadership views change as an opportunity for growth rather than as a set-back.
How to Enhance Leadership Skills in Your Management Team
With all of the daily tasks needed to be a good manager, it might be hard for management to spend time thinking about how to motivate their team when they’re worried about being in the red. If managers aren’t always hired with leadership skills in mind, how can businesses motivate staff to become leaders? Here are several strategies:
Provide assistance. If you want your managers to be leaders, cut them some slack. Lessen their workload and carve out time for them to fine-tune their leadership skills. Depending on the situation, this might mean hiring an assistant or allowing team members to take on added responsibilities.
Provide mentorship. There is little that compares to the solid advice of a seasoned leader. By setting up monthly one-on-one meetings with mentees, they’ll feel that you have a vested interest in their future with the company, which easily translates to motivation to hone new leadership skills and core competencies alike.
Implement continued learning. In addition to one-on-one advice, another valuable resource for teaching leadership skills is through online courses. E-learning platforms such as WebMentor LMS™ allow users to improve current skills and gain new ones at their own pace. Implementing an e-learning initiative and pairing it with a learning management system (LMS), companies can keep track of progress and give feedback on skillsets, creating a frictionless process for managers to assess and staff to move up in the ranks.
Create an ownership mentality. While it’s important to teach leadership skills, all will be for naught if staff don’t feel ownership of their work and their position in the company. When given the authority to use leadership and decision-making skills, staff will feel like a trusted and integral part of the organization. Support your staff members’ leadership skills by giving them autonomy and more responsibilities.
In businesses today, it’s increasingly clear that it’s important for managers to have solid leadership skills. With the right support, motivation and systems in place for improvement, it’s easy for managers and team members alike to adopt valuable leadership skills.
One way to create a streamlined process and comprehensive plan for building essential leadership skills, as well as core competencies and others company-wide, is by establishing a competency management plan. Learn more about best practices for creating an effective competency management plan on our blog.