By Marsha Bailey, Founder & CEO

I confess:  I’m a better leader than manager. You’re probably asking yourself, how can that be? Can you really be a good leader and a bad manager?  Or a good manager but a bad leader?  But perhaps the most important question is, can you learn to be a better leader?

Some people think that leaders are born and not made – that you either have it or you don’t.  I’ll admit, I have the gene that makes me want to take control and get everybody whipped into shape and  I tend to believe that I can fix just about anything.  Some people call it bossy.  I call it self-confident. 

 To be a leader, you have to have followers.  I learned pretty early on that ordering people around isn’t the most effective way to get people to fall into line.  In fact, it can have just the opposite effect.  Call it the “you’re not the boss of me” response.  Even if you are. 

And that brings us to the second part of the definition of leadership in my previous post – the ability to engage  – to make people want to work side-by-side towards a shared goal.  I think the ability to engage is critical to being a good leader and a good manager.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Clearly state the outcomes you want to achieve.  I confess that I thought about my goals much more than I talked about them and somehow, I thought everyone could read my mind.
  2. Give people a meaningful role.  Being a good problem-solver doesn’t mean you always have to be the first one with a solution. You don’t always have to be the smartest one in the room.  You’ll find that this relieves you of a lot of stress.
  3. Share decision-making.  In other words, let other people lead.  It shows you respect them and brings out their best.  Leaders nurture and cultivate leadership skills in others by becoming mentors.
  4. Measure and reward success.  When team members accomplish their goals, give them the recognition they deserve.  Sometimes it’s a raise or a bonus but it doesn’t always have to be money.  {Wo}man does not live by bread alone.  Just because we aren’t in kindergarten any more doesn’t mean we don’t still like the gold stars.

So can leadership be taught? I wasn’t always confident.  I might have been the bossiest girl in kindergarten, but in Junior High I was the poster girl for insecurity.  In the early days of my career, the insecure Junior High girl showed up a lot more often than the confident kindergartener.   When other people told me I was smart and competent, I started to believe it.  It made all the difference.  

In my next post, I’ll talk more about how I learned to be a better manager.

 In the meantime, what are your biggest leadership challenges?  Join the conversation.

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