Much of my job experiences have been heavily influenced by the leaders and managers I worked with. This seems to be a relevant topic, as you can also read many case studies of the heads from very successful companies scrolling through our social feeds. There are even science talks about the impact leaders have in organizations! So I decided that there are some thoughts I want to share on the subject.
I have met a wide array of leaders on my career, both being directly managed by them or feeling their effect in the company. But there are few who I consider had a lasting positive impact on my life! I remember having a manager who shielded us from external pressures so we could have the biggest impact, and how much that impacted our daily Job. Other times I felt heard and supported, allowing me to focus on my tasks. And I loved seeing how they embraced playfulness, fostering a funnier (and more engaging!) environment.
Most middle management is pushing for more productivity and longer work hours, without taking into consideration the impact that has. There are many traits from traditional management that really put me off, even when they sugar coat it with phrases like “we will share the success together!”. I understand there are deadlines. I know we are talking about work, and many times it will feel like a chore. But if we are trying to make something creative, that style of leadership will alienate me instead of bringing my best self.
Luckily, there are some leaders who are taking a completely different approach, and you can clearly see the effects. When I feel inspired by a mentor, I bring my A game every single time. It can be because I can focus on my small area of expertise while feeling supported on all those that make me struggle. Other times, I just have so much joy (and respect for their work) during my interactions with them, that I can help but look forward to meeting and working together!
What makes an inspiring leader
So, which traits define these magical leaders? They can be many and varied. Some have such a passionate vision that most of us can’t help but jump on their wagon regardless of what is required from us; like Elon Musk and his contagious passion. Others show how they prioritize their life and family, earning my respect and making me dream of becoming like them one day; like Jeff Bezos talking about quality over quantity of working hours. There are also the ones who include some level of playing or showing how to deal with a problem by setting themselves as examples; like Dick Costolo and how improvisation made him a better leader.
What do I value the most from a manager, then? Bringing a well-defined vision makes a huge impact on me. When they believe in the direction we are heading and feel passionate about our goal, I easily get on board. And that is no easy task! A big part of my job is offering counter-arguments and adding reality to our vision, and I feel that passion is the best way to win me. Another thing I strongly value is showing real competence, while still deciding to trust and delegate some of their tasks to the team. I feel empowered when I am trusted with a task by someone who is capable of doing it but recognizes their value of focusing on what they can impact the most.
What makes me run away from a manager? Feeling micromanaged easily makes me lose the motivation, even if I understand the value of checking for progress regularly and finding blockers early. Being managed by someone who focuses heavily on a strict process, without really understanding how it affects the rest of the team and lacking the fluidity needed to grow. I can also have difficulting if I am led by someone who doesn’t show expertise on our tasks, making it way more difficult to share success stories and explain the difficulties that I am facing.
Am I ready to become a leader?
I am approaching the point in my career when I am no longer scared of management tasks, and I really want to understand what shall I focus on if I want to become a manager. I would love to learn more from game theory and gamification, to create rewarding and engaging environments. And I should improve the ways I give and receive feedback, being a critical part of any leadership position.
If you are interested in the topic and you would like to learn more, there are many books which have inspired me on the subject. As I previously mentioned, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less taught me the importance of focusing on your biggest impact. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most helped to build your tools in those moments that matter the most. There are also many skills from improvisation that easily translate to team environments like focusing on listening, embracing the fact that you will have to drop your ideas, the joy of playing or focusing on this exact moment; just to name a few!
Let me hear from you!
What do you value from a manager? What would you recommend to some of your previous managers? If you are a leader, what do you struggle the most with? Do you agree with the points exposed here? Please, I would love to hear from your experience!