As a child I was sometime referred to as “bossy” and other times as a “natural team leader.” Due to my personality, I did not shy from responsibility and often was the voice for many of my friends and teammates. So from a young age, I knew I wanted to be a leader. But what does that really mean?
In today’s culture, “climbing the ladder” and eventually progressing to a position of management is a typical career path that many follow. However, managing people and being a leader are two very different things. Throughout my career so far, I have had to sometimes learn this the hard way.
Most of us have had “managers” or “bosses” but few of us have truly had “leaders” that take an interest in not only the professional growth, but personal growth of their team. A true leader sees a vision, the bigger picture, and hires the right people to execute that vision. This has been the biggest challenge for me as I evolve my leadership role, as I tend to take more on than I should. Just because I know how to do something, doesn’t mean I should do so. Delegation is a huge part of being a leader.
One of the best examples I have seen of this in recent pop culture, is in the movie “Hunter Killer.” The captain of the submarine is giving his crew a pep talk before they undertake a very challenging mission. This is paraphrasing, but he says that he has worked all his crew’s jobs and can even do some of those jobs better than they can. However, he won’t. Their jobs are his responsibility, but not something he can do alone.
This is something that resonated with me as I have often done something for my team just because I knew I could do it faster. So instead of delegating, I took it on and don’t allow my team to learn and grow. This is not what a good leader does. The best thing to do sometimes, even in an urgent scenario, is to just let your team do it themselves. Provide guidance of course, but make sure the onus is on them to get it done. Yes, they may fail, or they may succeed. Either way, they will learn something and grow in that success or failure.
I have learned over the last 3 years at The JPI Group that if you hire good people and foster a culture of trust, you often create a scenario where you can step out of the process and things still run smoothly. That is an indication of a good leader.
To use a sports analogy, the quarterback of a football team is a good manager, but the coach is the true leader. The coach has a vision and puts a playbook together, and sometimes even a rallying cry for the team. Then the quarterback is able to execute that vision and get the team through game. If the coach has to step out (or get thrown out of the game in some instances), this should not matter, because he has put a system in place with a team he trusts to get the job done.
So as someone who is fairly new to leadership, I am thankful to have a leader of my own to help me to evolve. It is not always the easiest path, but if you take the time to invest in your people and empower them more, you will be amazed of what you and your team can achieve.