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Only smarties have all the answers
April 15, 2016
You’re the leader what do you mean you don’t have all the answers
Being a leader you are expected to have a plethora of leadership skills and attributes. How many articles have we seen that are the how to guide to becoming an effective leader or listing the top leadership skills for success. We have all seen the long list of skills and behaviours that to demonstrate consistently day in day out without showing any crack in our armoury we would have to be demigods.
So as a leader when is it ok to not have all the answers?
Leaders tend to emerge from having worked their way up becoming knowledgeable and experienced in a chosen career or technical area. Having built up your experience you then get promoted and you become responsible for more things than you did before. Having a wider remit with more responsibility for more stuff. The usual path to getting a leadership job is you get your foot in the door and you get stuff that you have to do. File a report, collate information, contact these people and get a response etc. etc. Then the next rung will tend to be more responsibility for more stuff so instead of being the person that just copies the stuff for the report you actually get to talk to the people involved to get the information to put in the report and then as you progress you have someone collecting the information for you, briefing you on it before you feedback to the executive.
There are no rule books on what is meant to happen when you get promoted and you move on from being responsible for stuff and tasks to then having something less tangible and being a leader of people rather than a doer of things.
Career Path of a leader
Once you build up your experience you continue to develop in your chosen field building up more experience and knowledge, which usually involves knowledge of stuff. So what happens when you move into a more strategic job? You have less day-to-day interaction with the delivery of stuff the actual doing. As such the level of detailed knowledge about each particular task or deliverable is less of a requirement.
That said, as a leader you are still responsible for the things that get done and even more importantly for the things that haven’t been done.
For many of us moving away from being task driven and the satisfaction of getting things ticked off the to do list can often be a difficult transition. Also getting comfortable with not being the one that knows the detail about the latest piece of legislation or in-depth knowledge on every department activity is something as a leader that you have to get comfortable with.
I suppose what we are looking at here are the core differences from being a leader rather than a manager. With the manager being more focussed on the present and leader being future focussed working on longer time scales and on team alignment rather than team organisation.
How do you know if leadership is right for you and are you prepared to give up the focus on the detail?
Many organisations have promoted individuals because they are technically very good they know their stuff and can deliver on a day-to-day basis. But not all of these individuals in these positions want to be in a leadership role and some simply do not have the right skill set.
How many of us have seen examples where someone is promoted into a leadership position but they still meddle in the day-to-day detail rather than empowering their teams to move forward. Sure, a leader is not admonished of all responsibility as I said earlier they would certainly be in the firing line if something serious is missed or overlooked.
Although there is something amiss if the leader is spending most of their time picking over the finer details rather than looking at moving the strategy and the business forward? Having coaching and mentoring programme in place for employees who are transitioning from Management to Leadership can help them to become more effective much quicker.
So if you are a new leader or even if you have been in a leadership role for sometime....
Ask yourself are you comfortable with saying I don’t know?