Understand the Difference Between Leadership and Management
Remember the Chicago Bulls of the ’90s? They won six NBA championships in eight seasons. When most people are asked who the leader of that team was, they respond with Michael Jordan. But that’s not entirely true; in reality, Phil Jackson was the coach and the official leader.
Every team has a leader, but it isn’t always the person in the management position. While everyone wants to be a part of a successful project, not everyone is willing to step up to the plate and take the lead.
While taking the lead is relatively simple, the thought of taking responsibility for the people, the project, and success or failure is not. One of the most common reasons people get their first leadership position is because they knew the tasks of their projects well. However, that does not always translate into knowing how to lead the people. Thus, one of the reasons leaders fail is their inability to work well with people.
Here are a few tips and tricks to consider when taking the lead on a task or project.
- Be Inconspicuous – While you are taking on more responsibility, there are probably those on the team who do not feel you are the right one to take the lead on this task. If you are inconspicuous and subtle with your actions, the entire team will think of you as the leader without telling them you are the leader. One way to ensure this works is to get everyone’s ideas and work together to come up with an action plan.
- Share All Successes – Bear Bryant used to say, “If anything goes wrong, I did it; if anything goes somewhat right, we did it; if anything goes just right, you did it.” Keep in mind, the ultimate goal here is for the project to succeed, thus the team succeeds. As Marriott’s Ray Warren talked about in my article, “How to Keep Employees Engaged,” good leadership teams are constantly watching for potential new and upcoming leaders; by helping the team to succeed, you will succeed.
- Play to Everyone’s Strengths – If everyone on the team had the same skill sets, the team would go in circles and projects would stagnate. Take time to know your team members, learn what they “enjoy” doing and try to match their likes with their skills.
- Be the Mediator – The likelihood that everyone on the team will agree with everyone all of the time is slim to none. Opposing views can be of significant benefit to the team. Always encourage new ideas and, when opposing views arise (and they will), mediate discussions and debates to keep the project moving forward. This translates into the team setting new goals and objectives through discussion, and you are viewed as the decision maker and leader.
- Be the Cheerleader – Remember, you are not the “supervisor” of this team and you cannot place an employee on a performance plan or write him or her a bad annual review. What you have available is much greater than that; you have the ability to inspire, recognize, and praise employees in a way that makes them want to succeed. There’s the old adage that you can eat an elephant one bite at a time. Well, take that concept and break the task or project down into smaller segments with attainable deadlines. Then, when an individual hits his or her deadline, you offer praise. Of course you would do the same when the entire team hits their goals as well.
One of the greatest things you can do as an aspiring leader is to volunteer for new tasks and assignments. This does two things:
- It helps you grow and develop, both professionally and personally and
- It allows you to stand out to management so that when a management position opens up, they may consider you.
You’ve heard the old expression – “All good things come to those who wait.” Well, I like adding a second part to that saying, “But only those things that were left behind by those who hustled.”