Use influence instead of your title11 May 2011
What exactly is leadership? Can the job title of manager make you a leader, or is more needed to fit you for the role? A managerial title can sometimes give you a few benefits: authority, standing, and – depending on the organisation – varying degrees of credibility and input with peers and superiors. Yet, this doesn’t prepare you for actual dealings with your team.
Most would agree that authority is an important component of the management equation. After all, no manager could function adequately without it. Yet, authority is an interesting phenomenon since it’s more a state in which management functions than a tool it uses for influencing or compelling the cooperation of employees – or at least it should be.
Authority works best when used least! If you are manager who continually finds it necessary to call upon the authority of your position or title to keep people in line and make them more productive, you might want to rethink your strategy. You’d be better off developing the interpersonal skills that enable you to exert real influence on your team.
So, what’s the key here? To put it simply, the more “people skills” leaders possess, the less they need to use authority to get results. The factor that separates real leadership from mere management is learning and using the skills that inspire people to do the things you ask – i.e. the things that benefit the organisation – not because they’ll get into trouble if they don’t, or because they might get a poor evaluation at their next performance review, or even because they might be passed over for a raise or promotion – but simply because they want to.
What skills are so important for influencing your team to reach its full potential, making an almost-magical difference in employee attitude and transforming reticent and often uncooperative rebels into your most enthusiastic allies? The simple human traits we all crave in our dealings with others – traits like empathy, honesty, fairness and flexibility – which demonstrate respect for others and validate their worth. These transformational traits also include the ability to demonstrate our own humanity, to admit our mistakes, to model the behaviours we want to see in others and to be failure-tolerant by judging outcomes rather than individuals. These are the traits that build trust and foster an attitude of collaboration. These are the true measures of influence. They are the qualities that will make you a true leader.