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Over the years, I’ve done a lot of work with Leading Managers – that is managers who consider themselves leaders in their organisations, even if their title doesn’t reflect a senior leadership role.

On paper, the difference between leading and managing is simple.

Managing is ensuring a set of processes and resources (including people) function smoothly while leading involves inspiring people to follow and achieve a vision of the future by optimally utilising the processes and resources available.

As clear cut as this might sound, leading when you’re a manager can feel challenging so here are five key things I’ve found most ‘Leading Managers’ have in common:

  1. They choose to lead: 
    Managing and leading are intertwined. Managing is a position or a function while leadership is a choice and, once you decide to lead, there is a fundamental shift required in how you choose to manage. When you take up the mantle of leadership, every management action or decision you make could be leading people to something greater. The lens of leadership evolves the function of management into something more. The challenge is not whether you choose to lead or not; you are already a leader. It is the choice to consciously lead that will begin the journey to great leadership. The decision comes first – lead through management or manage without leadership.
  2. They shift their story:
    Often the narrative we hold about ourselves limits us. The story we tell ourselves about our company, our boss and our abilities can convince us that it is challenging to lead. This internal voice reinforces our beliefs about ourselves and our situation and therefore shapes our behaviour and actions. Challenge yourself to find a new narrative by understanding that the way you view yourself has everything to do with the way you will lead.
  3. They concentrate on the ‘how’: 
    You’ll know the ‘what’ of your management role. The “what” is easy to measure in the form of deliverables and output. It will be given to you in your role description, or your KPAs. In the choice of leadership, it’s the “how” that is far more important.  The choice to be a leader can show up every time you take management action. When delegating, how do you delegate? Is it as an opportunity to empower and grow someone, or is it just the way to get a task done? Is a performance review the chance to connect, to help set the context and co-create a development path with your team members, or is it just a tick-box exercise? When it comes to the choice of leading or not, how you fulfil your management obligations is far more important than what you do.
  4. They practice leadership daily: 
    The choice to lead is not a singular occurrence. It is a daily decision shown in every interaction with the people you lead. Embedding leadership in day-to-day practices creates an environment and narrative that enables your natural leadership abilities to flow. Putting opportunities to practice leadership in place, for example, weekly planning, individual check-ins and team feedback sessions create regular opportunities to put yourself into a leadership role consciously. The more often you practice, the more leadership behaviours will become a habit and second nature.
  5. They seek a holistic perspective:
    Being a leader requires a holistic view, not only of your team but of its place in the greater organisation, its contribution to the overall vision and its capacity to move forward. Your management role is in the details; it is in the ‘doing’. Your choice to lead requires you to step up into the proverbial balcony to gain a holistic view. Make no mistake, as a leader, you will still be required to ‘do’ but by looking at the bigger picture you will more clearly see both the “how” of your role and a different perspective of your place within the team.

Without a doubt, being an excellent leader is a skill. It needs to be practised, internalised and self-checked often. It’s the conscious choice you make every day to inspire your team to follow your lead.

Make the choice today!

If you are looking to upskill your Leading Managers in your organisation, get in touch with Rob rob@lockstep.co.za to discuss a customised solution for your business.

Rob Broster

Rob Broster

Rob Broster is a Senior Associate at Lockstep and works closely with his clients to help build better workplaces. Focusing on people performance, Rob believes that the workplace needs to be more engaging, ethical and effective. Rob champions the Leading Manager Programme. This 3-5-month programme focuses on developing a leadership mindset in management teams, while providing them with the necessary skills and the practical know-how for managers to succeed.

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