Great leaders need to sacrifize themselves

Great leaders need to sacrifize themselves
Why leaders need to focus on the development of others

Being a great leader is hard. It´s hard because leadership means sacrifice. It means removing oneself from the center, instead putting others into the spotlight. It means to give away the credits, and take the blame when things go wrong. Striving for the next level is deeply anchored in human nature. The downside of that is leaders are often more concerned about status and forget about their real job. Their real job is not to be in charge, but taking care about those that are in their charge.

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.
↬ Arnold H. Glasow

The transition between no longer and yet

Empathy is the key of human interaction at all levels. Great team leaders need to have empathy and be able to take the perspective of the people they are responsible for. One may think it shouldn´t be too hard for a team leader to put himself into a Product Managers´ shoes. After all at some point they have started at a junior level too, right? So what´s the issue here? Product Managers do a good job. That´s the expectation. In order to do a good job they are send to trainings and get mentorships. When they do their job great, they will get promoted to be responsible for the people that do the job they were used to do. And then: Congratulations, you are in charge of a bunch of people now!

This is a tremendous shift of responsibilities. Just as crucial as tricky. Most of the team leaders get promoted supposedly because they do the job better than the others do. And this is when micromanagement starts to evolve. In result they become managers instead of leaders. Often there is a lack of transition that´s needed to grow from a manager to a leader. Team members have been promoted to a leadership position from one day to another. No time to grow into that role. As a result the team leader is rather a highly experienced product manager concerned about appearance towards management than being an empathic enabler and influencer.

Product Managers have to work so closely with other teams within the company and they have rarely managerial responsibility over them. It´s essentially important for them to receive feedback of how their effort affects the organization. This will lead to a boost of motivation which will help them to grow and become more confident, thus autonomous. The challenge for a team leader is to let go and step out of the position as “Master-Mind” of the product. Acting as a coach, mentor and sparring partner for the team who removes all hurdles that might affect their work and provides open space for innovative thinking. The glue part between people making sure to eliminate all blockers that could influence this glue.

Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.
↬ Robin S. Sharma

People matter- listen to them

Cross your heart: how many of the conversations you had with your team leader started with the simple question “How are you doing”? In which environment are you usually in when you talk one on one to your manager? Is all attention focused on you and what you say? Or do you face times when the missed call on the phone and the reminder for the next meeting is more important than this half hour once a week talking about your concerns? How does that make you feel?

Most one-on-one meetings start talking about projects and KPIs. Once more you have to admit that the numbers went down. The third week in a row. What do you usually hear in those situations as a response from your manager? Probably, something like “What had happened? What went wrong?”.  What a great leader should ask instead is “Are you okay? Do you feel well?”. Do you have the feeling that your manager takes your perspective?

The key to get here is communication, and attention. At the bottom line it´s all about empathy. Empathy is concerned about the human being, not their output. Thus, it´s not about oneself, but about the ability to teach the next generation how to fail, struggle, succeed and flourish in a given environment. Influence is what the ultimate outcome is. Finally, this is what employees make doing a great job, and the reason why they love their job.

H O W  T O   M A K E   Y O U R   M A N A G E R   L I S T E N

1. Claim your one-on-one sessions: often regular meetings are cancelled due to a tight schedule. Do insist on them. It is your hour of the week to talk about your matters.

2. Split your one-on-one sessions: first, talk about business topics. Then reserve time to talk about your personal concerns.

3. Make your manager put his full attention on you: close laptops, remove phones from the table and select a room that has no glass door.

4. Ask actively for feedback: Pull the information that matters to you. If you want to talk for example about your personal development or performance open the conversation proactively.

5. Be the best version of yourself: give back what you expect and require from others. That means put yourself in your managers´ shoes and try to understand why certain manners are as they are. Maybe the last management meeting required all his attention for which reason he is still tensed.

Written by Sabrina Rzepka


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