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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Do You Encourage Leadership Behaviors Among Your Managers?

The absence of leadership action among your managers can be a learned behavior. As such it can be unlearned and replaced with a new set of behaviors.

I was with a friend the other day whom I had a chance to work with for three years. He is concerned about the inability of his managers to think strategically and lead some necessary changes in the workplace. He has worked with these managers and this is the first time I heard him complain about this. This is because he has never required them to think strategically and lead in the past. They used to take care of fairly stable processes and make sure that people are compliant. Until lately, they were expected only to make sure that the processes are being run effectively and efficiently. But as all businesses need to change to remain competitive, his company did as well. They started accepting new orders that require the managers to use their experiences to device new solutions. That's like asking a man with a hammer to use that tool to cut a wood or smoothen a surface. So what happened? My friend had to lead solution development until he becomes so tired of it. No matter how often he says that they need to start leading the change, they don't know exactly how and so they are afraid to try.

This here is my recommendation to my friend that I'd like to share with you as well.

First, you need to communicate in clear terms what has changed and what new expectations from you have come with this change. Be clear about how you will evaluate their performance from now on. If you want them to think strategically, you will need to recognize process improvements more than compliance with old processes.

Second, you may have to impress to them the importance of thinking and behaving like the leaders that they are. Make it known to them that washing their hands off or not taking ownership of management decisions is conduct unbecoming of a leader. If they have problems with top management decisions, they should take their issues upward and never downward.

Third, as leaders they need to learn to use influence and inspiration to rally their team towards a common goal. This means they need to learn how to communicate better through words and actions. They cannot say go that way and yet their action leads to the opposite way.

Another leadership ability is empowerment by enabling and confidence building. Enabling comes from the leader's ability to train and coach. Confidence is built through encouragement and expression of trust. Enabling and confidence building cannot be independent of each of each other. They go hand in hand.

You know that you will not suddenly gain confidence in your managers' leadership ability just because you communicated these things. That is because you know it will take more than well constructed words to unlearn years of programming. You need to practice what you preach. The communication takes care of inspiring and influencing change of behavior, you need to be more deliberate and concrete about enabling and confidence building. Train your leaders to lead. Coach them to build confidence. If you need help in doing this, let me know.

I conduct a workshop aimed at strengthening the leadership attitude and skills of managers. See if this is something your supervisors and managers can use to reinforce their leadership skills.

High Performance Team Leadership


  1. These are nice pieces of advices Ed. Keep on helping your readers become better managers. I have an article which may also contribute to the discussion. They can find it here-

    I've been following your writing and they are all a good read. Congratulations.

    Jef Menguin

  2. Anonymous9:26 AM

    I came across your blog and immediately became interested...good references and advises...will definitely come back and check on it every now and then...good JOB!

  3. Communication, it is! Managing a company is crucial and it requires a lot of effort. The top management tasks will never be successful if the people under it don't cooperate. Good communication is the first step to making things better within the company.


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