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The Manager as Leader

How can you leverage the natural leaders in your company to achieve your goals?

In their book Five Star Leadership: The Art and Strategy of Creating Leaders at Every Level, co-authors Patrick Townsend and Joan Gebhardt write, "Management is about skills; leadership is about skills coupled with character." A manager gets the job done, while a leader inspires employees to continually improve performance and achieve a high level of success. Managers look at the day-to-day details; leaders see the big picture and possess a vision for the future.

Organizations need both managers and leaders, but leaders can be elusive. According to a 2011 survey by leadership training institute The Ken Blanchard Companies, the top challenge for organizations is developing leaders who excel at both strategic and tactical roles - and who communicate effectively.

Leverage the leaders within your firm and watch them innovate, improve efficiencies or seize growth and revenue opportunities. To paraphrase management guru Jim Collins: let your leaders take your firm from good to great.

Beyond the Facade
Identifying leaders is tricky since it's easy to be fooled by appearances. The employee with the most skill or best educational pedigree may not make a great leader. Not every leader has the verbal acuity or charisma of Martin Luther King or Apple's Steve Jobs and, in fact, some of the most successful leaders are actually introverts. Consider how reserved leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi were able to quietly achieve their goals.

An introverted leader is particularly effective when the rest of the team is comprised of extroverts, according to a study by Wharton Management School, Harvard Business School and the University of North Carolina. Notes Wharton professor Adam Grant, "There is real value in a leader being more reserved, quieter and in some cases silent, in order to create space for employees to enter the dialogue."

Natural Born Leaders
Many leaders come by their skills naturally, but it is possible to learn to be a leader. Consider investing in leadership training for an employee who exhibits the qualities needed, but does not have the experience or confidence, to lead a team. Online leadership training courses and books can help, but the most effective leadership training typically occurs face-to-face with a coach. Think of this training and coaching as an investment in your firm's future.


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