There is no doubt that managing a team, organisation or your own enterprise is not a piece of cake. Nowadays employees have the same access to information as managers, entrepreneurs and leaders. So my question is do we need leaders? people leading teams, projects and or organisations? My answers is a definite YES!
Not long ago managers did “everything” at the office: made copies, dictated letters, networked, represented the company, managed staff, etc. This has changed drastically and roles have been re-defined. Employees have the information needed to develop, market or sell a product and they do this better than managers or entrepreneurs. Teams tend to collectively do most of the things that need to be done and the leader’s role is to motivate, guide and look ahead so as to change the course of action if needed.
Leaders are expected to have a set of skills and talents to be successful in today’s uncertain environment; they need to basically implement strategic leadership.
What is strategic leadership? This is when leaders are busy with managing and implementing basic changes in the team/organisation. Changing how a business/team does something is strategic because a different way of doing things gives the team/business different capabilities. For example, a business manager who introduces SAP as management application system will have less knowledge of the day to day happenings. The consequence is that he will not know everything that is happening on the floor but will free him to do other things like managing people, create new products/services. This will have a great impact on the entire business process.
Leadership is all about having a vision of where you want to be and achieving this vision. Perhaps the most important skill a leader needs is to be able to think strategically. If this is true my next question is: can we teach leaders to think strategically, can this be learned?
I am not saying it’s an easy task to learn to be a leader in this time. People need to have some talents, desires and a set of skills supporting them along the way. People can learn to be leaders, and leaders come in all sizes and colours!
Some of the main skills to be a strategic leader are:
Anticipation: leaders need to make a habit of keeping their eyes open to what is happening, not only in their business environment but also beyond. The changes, discoveries in one area might ripple towards other areas. Think of the introduction of mobile phones – the impact it has had on shopping behaviour, people are connected 24/7, information is at our fingertips.
Think critically: learn to question everything, re-frame problems so you can get to the bottom of things, challenge current beliefs and mind-sets and do not be tempted to play office politics as this will only derail you from the truth.
Interpret: look at information as what it is: a source of data. This data should be used to find patterns, understand what is happening, supports you in testing assumptions and make decisions based on proof.
Decide: avoid “paralysis by analysis”. Frame decisions clearly, combine it with speed and quality (forget perfectionism, it will only slow you down). Dare to take a stand with information you “might” consider incomplete and ask others to support you.
Align: get the support of your team. Consensus is difficult to get, so strive for open dialogue, build trust and engage your stakeholders. Understand your team and reach out.
Learn: keep feedback and constructive criticism alive by asking for it and showing that you are doing something with the information people are giving you. If you see you are wrong adjust course and thank people for their support and celebrate your successes with others.
Of course a full grown leader needs, alongside strategic thinking, also skills in organising and action planning, both essential for delivery of your vision and strategy, and risk management to help you avoid things going wrong, and manage when they do. Remember you do not have to do this alone, lean on your team!
If you don’t have the skills, you can acquire them. aNDE, for instance, offers various leadership development programmes, blended learning and coaching services to help you as manager, entrepreneur and future leader to grow to be a better leader or business owner.