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Manage Yourself, Lead Others

November 27, 2009

Is a good manager necessarily a good leader? Can you poorly execute the fundamentals of good management and still be an effective leader?

These are good questions and they are frequently asked. The concepts of management and leadership are commonly confused. All too often people try to lead by managing or to manage by merely leading.

Management is a science. It has an accumulated body of knowledge that contributes to the development of policies, practices and procedures for the effective accomplishment of agreed upon objectives. Practically speaking however, the job of management often breaks down into getting others to work, something it is not designed to do.

The management fundamentals of planning, executing and controlling are frequently interpreted as processes that we inflict on others. The fundamentals of management and the scientific knowledge about it should first and most importantly be applied to yourself. Manage yourself, your schedule, your goals, your efforts, your time, your results. Be a harsh critic and take corrective action as needed. The greater your responsibilities, the more vigorously you need to manage yourself.

Next, apply those same principles of good management to “things”. Things are projects, budgets, schedules, programs etc. The proper accomplishment of these “things” requires the application of good management principles.

When it comes to others, the place where conventional practice would indicate that management begins (doesn’t everybody say I manage x number of people), shift your focus from the fundamentals of management to becoming a leader. If you have vigorously applied all available knowledge to the management of yourself and your “things”, you are in a position to lead others.

Business and industry has changed a lot over the years and the pace of change will continue to accelerate. But progress is only made by good men and women working hard and together. They will always need effective leaders to be successful. Effective leaders apply their skills with such apparent ease that they are often referred to as “born leaders”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders become leaders through experience and hard work.

There are ample resources available to help improve your management skills. What about your leadership skills? Where do you begin?

You acquire the ability to lead by taking a honest look at yourself. Hold yourself up to the standards that you admire in an effective leader. Examine your performance against those standards. Set objectives for your conduct in those areas that are important to your development as a leader. Begin by looking at some of the traditionally respected character traits of good leaders.

INTEGRITY. When you give your word, make sure you keep it. Your people are depending on you, don’t let them down. All your statements, official or casual, are considered to be true. Make sure they are. If you have made a mistake or created a false impression, don’t overlook it or be too proud to correct it. Credibility takes a long time to establish, but it can be erased in seconds, never to be regained.

KNOWLEDGE. Know your job. The charismatic school of leadership doesn’t get the job done over the long run. Most of us become reasonably expert at recognizing a phony, don’t be one. If you don’t know something, admit it. If it is important, go and find it out. Dis information and disillusionment are often distributed by well meaning individuals that “fake it” when they should have known better.

DECISIVENESS. When making decisions, get all the information that is available to you. Weigh all the facts and then issue your decision in clear and confident terms. We all need direction from our leaders. Don’t quibble over minor points and create ambiguities that will transfer responsibility to those who need direction. When you are wrong, say so. Everybody makes a mistake. The trick is not to make the same one twice.

FAIRNESS. Create an even playing field for those that work for you. Don’t play favorites. Keep anger and emotion out of your decisions. Give credit where credit is due. Recognize the hard work and good ideas of your employees and be grateful that you are associated with quality people. A lot has been recently written about executive perks from parking places to lunch rooms. True leaders get their satisfaction from a job well done and not by first feathering their own nest.

ENTHUSIASM. It is contagious. Put all that you have into the achievement of your objectives and others will follow. Display indifference and you will lead in the wrong direction. Your knowledge, interest and enthusiasm will inspire others more than any other single factor.

Because it’s your business, your career and your life, manage yourself and lead others.

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