The difference lies in the ability to inspire employees, especially during difficult times.
In an ideal world, the titles “manager” and “leader” would go hand in hand, but that’s not always the case. It’s no surprise that productivity and employee morale rely heavily on a manager’s leadership style. One wrong move (or even the perception of being wrong), may cause employees to lose trust in their managers’ abilities to guide their careers. The question is, what’s the difference between a competent manager and a truly great leader? It’s the ability to inspire employees during difficult times.
Let’s look at an example of a small business owner who is concerned about a newly promoted IT staffer. “John” is a star — technically proficient, reliable and competent, with an incredibly strong work ethic. When the previous IT manager left the company, it seemed obvious that John would be a natural in the role. Unfortunately, three months into the job, the team is not performing well and John can’t seem to grasp all the varied elements of successful leadership. The company doesn’t want to lose John — but it also knows that something had to change. John has never managed employees prior to his promotion, and the company’s lack of training directly contributed to this dilemma.
This is not an uncommon problem– many companies don’t invest in proper management training for newly promoted managers. In times of economic turmoil, training programs are often the first to be eliminated in an effort to cut costs. While this may seem like an easy fix, it’s actually the wrong choice and one that reveals a lack of big-picture thinking. In fact, a study conducted by Spherion Atlantic Enterprises LLC revealed that 61 percent of respondents who received training or mentoring said they were very likely to remain with their current employer for the next five years or more.
In our example, there are several options to improve John’s management style. The company can invest in one-on-one coaching, professional development classes or other advanced certification. A cost-effective option would be to assign John a mentor from senior management for regular and formal check-ins. There are also many online libraries that provide interactive, individual curriculums based on what employees need to learn. And while the company works to improve John’s management style, they simultaneously needed to rely on others in his team — proven leaders within the company and even outside sources — for true leadership.
The effectiveness of company leaders — from the CEO and down through individual department managers — is a crucial indicator of a company’s success. Some of the core traits of a strong leader include:
Yes, these are challenging times for business owners. But with more attention spent on motivating and keeping employees (the most critical part of any business), the true leaders will weather the storm with their employees at their side.