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Managers Want To Know Why Being A Leader Is So Hard To Do – The Accidental IT Leader

Managers Want To Know Why Being A Leader Is So Hard To Do

Management is easy, leadership is hard to do well
Management is easy, leadership is hard to do well
Image Credit: Guitguit

Ok, hopefully we can all agree that the basic management stuff is pretty easy for just about anyone with manager skills to do: sign time cards, have an annual review, keep things on track. These things don’t require a great deal of manager training. I like to think of management as being the process of having everyone work on what they are supposed to be doing when you are in the room. However, then we move on to that tricky thing: leadership. I think of leadership as getting the people who are a part of your team to be so committed that they keep doing what they are supposed to be doing even when you are not in the room. Now how is a manager supposed to make that happen?


What Makes Somebody A Good Leader?

So, the people who spend their time studying what can make a manager a good leader have discovered that we’re getting this all wrong. What they have come to realize is that our deeply held beliefs on what makes a manager a good leader are probably wrong. One of the reasons that we’ve been getting the whole leadership thing wrong for so long is because it turns out that there is really no good way to measure it. Often when people are talking about leadership, they will use a lot of adjectives. You’ve heard them all: charismatic leaders, servant leaders, transformational leaders, transactional leaders, visionary leaders and many more. For each one of these types of leaders, we have created a series of traits. However, very few people possess all of these traits.

So when we take a look at the people in the real world that we believe are doing a good job of being leaders, what do we find? What we tend to discover is that good leaders are the people who are able to attract followers. What this means is that if we really want to develop an understanding of leadership, then what we need to is to take a close look at followership. We need to find an answer to the question of what tends to draw us to someone?

Before we can answer that question, we need to understand that we’ve been getting something else wrong for way too long. In order to keep things simple when we are talking about leadership, we tend to reduce the complexity of the people that are going to be lead. We eliminate individuality. We start to pretend that there is some sort of common culture that all the members of our team belong to. It turns out that this is not correct – there is not one culture that everyone belongs to.


Leaders Know What The Future Looks Like

Unfortunately, it turns out that the members of our team are all different in what they are searching for in their leader. What this means for us is that as managers we need to clearly choose what we want to accomplish. When we do this, then what will happen is that our followers will then mass behind that idea if it excites them. The people who follow leaders want certain things from them. These include providing a sense of connection to the mission, clarifying what is expected of them, surrounding them with people who share their definition of excellence, and challenging them to keep getting better.

As a leader you will have the responsibility to turn anxiety about the future into confidence. In order to make this happen, as leaders we need to have one or two well-honed abilities. One of these skills is the ability to do one thing, like dream up exciting products or rally people around a social mission. The leader creates a sense in the follower that the leader can see around corners, so the follower is going to take very seriously the direction the leader is setting.

As a leader you need to learn how to paint a picture for the people who will be following you. You need to be able to create “vividness”. What we are talking about is the ability to create a detail-rich picture of where the team is going. This is almost a form of team building. Leaders must be willing to start with who you are, in a super-detailed, granular, colorful, specific sense. The reason that you have to do this is because, in the end, that is what you have going for you.


What All Of This Means For You

Once a manager gets past the basics of management, we start to look at the next step in our development: leadership. Leadership is all about inspiring the people that work on our team to want to be able to achieve more. Just exactly how is a manager supposed to go about doing that?

Becoming a good leader is a hard thing to do. One reason that it is so challenging to do is because there is no good way to go about measuring someone’s leadership potential. Instead, what we tend to do is to use a lot of adjectives and a list of traits to try to describe somebody who shows good leadership abilities. The problem that we run into is that very few people possess all of the things that we think a good leader should have. When we find good leaders in the real world what we quickly discover is that they have a group of people who are willing to follow them. As a leader you will have the responsibility to turn anxiety about the future into confidence. Additionally, as a leader you need to learn how to paint a picture for the people who will be following you.

Management is actually fairly easy to do – in fact we can measure it. However, being a leader is much harder – and we can’t measure it. However, in order to get the most out of your team, you have to find ways to become a good leader. You need to find ways to get your team to follow you. Spend some time thinking about the images that you want to paint for your team that will cause them to want to follow you. Then share these images with them. If you can become a good leader, then you’ll have the ability to do great things.


– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™


Question For You: Can you think of any way to tell if tomorrow you’ll be a better leader than you are today?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Managers who have built a successful team are always worried about one thing: are their workers going to stay? As more and more of our teams are being built using members of the millennial generation a lot of us have become worried because we don’t have any manager training on how to get people to stay. The typical description of a millennial worker is one who moves around a lot looking for the next best thing. Should managers be worried that their team members are going to be moving on?