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Lead, follow, or get out of the way!

Leadership.  Big word, and a bigger subject – and one of the most neglected of skills in the great community of us who need to achieve our objectives through the work of our staff.  Not to get on my soapbox… no, wait, I AM on my soapbox about this one!  Everybody, from the DED to the Chamber of Commerce to the new UK Prime Minister, keeps rattling on about the importance of skills to the economy, and of course they are right.  But having highly skilled workers won’t achieve a thing if they are unmotivated, afraid of risk, and making decisions based on fear of making a mistake!  The culture needed to fix that flows directly from the leaders.

Every person who works for you is a volunteer.  Ultimately it is they who decide how hard they work and how much commitment they show to the organisation.  At the end of the day, you’re a manager by appointment, but a leader only by consent of those who choose to follow.

Most organisations are good enough at their business, and many are also good at ensuring that their people are skilled at the work they do.  Unfortunately, many also promote solely of technical ability at the previous level – which is easy to assess – and completely miss the question of their leadership ability!

Increasingly, the expectation of staff is that managers will lead rather than drive.  Sure, management skills are still important, but it is possible to be an effective manager of processes and still be a hopeless leader – and then you have a problem.  We need to be growing leaders, people who can:

  • motivate staff to want to do the work
  • challenge and develop them
  • influence their attitudes and behaviour
  • deal with change positively

We also need to start leadership training at the bottom – identifying potential and developing skills – and starting early to develop the skills needed to be an effective leader.  And leadership CAN be learned; all that is required is determination and a genuine interest in people.  Everything else can be learned.  And yes, there are born leaders, but they are few and far between, and you probably wouldn’t like them.

The DED on the Island have recognised this issue, and actively support leadership training at supervisory and first-line management levels.  They’ve put their money where their mouth is.  Can you in good conscience do less?

Lead, follow, or get out of the way!