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Are you a leader or a manager?

By Fi Darby | 18 May 2020


For better or worse, there isn’t a business in Australia that hasn’t been impacted in some way by the coronavirus crisis. All across the country, business leaders and management teams are adapting their leadership styles in order to survive in an altered and rapidly changing business environment. 

Although their goals are usually the same, there is a difference in the ways our managers and our leaders tend to work. When times are settled, we need both the competency of managers and the vision of leaders. However, during a time of crisis, most of us recognise that it is strong leadership that will take us through. If you aren’t sure whether you are currently a manager or a leader, SkillsTalk have a few ideas that might help you decide.

Visions instead of goals

These difficult times are already highlighting the importance of leadership vision over management goals. The tools of management include targets, processes and systems, all of which are important when it comes to enhanced productivity and the competitive edge. However, with most systems experiencing severe disruption, these tools currently have reduced significance. 

With a physically distanced workforce, disrupted supply lines and rapidly changing markets, it is leadership vision or the lack of it that is going to see businesses succeed or fail. Leadership vision welcomes change and has the ability, not only to survive disruption, but also to turn it into a success factor. 

How well have you formed and communicated your vision for this current crisis?

Efficiency and resilience are not the same thing

resilience concept

Efficiency has become one of the most prominent success criteria of our times. In a predictable world this isn't a problem because efficiency relies on certain sets of foreseeable occurrences. However, in a disrupted and highly changeable environment, efficiency can become a mistaken management goal that is almost impossible to achieve. 

As a manager, you might be used to chasing efficiency and feel keenly its link to productivity but in a crisis, business leaders should focus instead on resilience. Good leadership involves helping people to build resilience and encourage adaptability. In fluid times, it is resilience that will keep the cogs of business moving and help your business to keep its competitive edge.

What are you currently doing to recognise and encourage team and individual resilience?

Suddenly everyone is working as an individual

As a manager it is natural to want to regulate people and processes so that they work in a smooth and predictable way. There are obvious advantages to this; there is no doubt that a crowd doing the same thing is easier to control than a crowd following unpredictable patterns. However, we find ourselves in a new type of business situation. 

Employees working from home are creating their own flexible routines and finding innovative ways to solve problems. There is plenty of strength in this and, whereas a rigid manager might struggle and continue to strive for uniformity, an effective leader will capitalise on individuality, gather useful ideas and encourage effective solutions.

Have you set up systems for the sharing of ideas and solutions?

Delegation is about trusting the expertise

During a time of crisis, it can be tempting for a business leader to assume centralised control for every decision. To a manager this might seem like a natural response. With tight control, it is easier to assess success and measure output. However, centralised control can stifle team expertise, limit the development of innovative solutions and even result in serious mistakes. 

In this type of situation, it is the leader’s role to provide clear direction and ensure decision-making opportunities for team managers. Business leaders, who have, amongst their management teams, fostered good levels of cooperation and collaboration, are about to reap the benefits of their efforts.

Who are your trusted experts and how are you allocating them?

Message received

It is safe to assume during difficult times that most of us will be working under some kind of stress. This is natural but can have a significant effect on people’s ability to process communicated messages. A business leader with strong emotional intelligence will understand that effective communication can be the key to limiting any negative impacts of disruption

Whilst a manager might stick to tried and tested methods, a leader will find new ways to reassure and encourage through concise and carefully considered communications. With any significant change, there comes an inevitable and very natural resistance to new methods. As a leader, you will need to understand that your own adaptability and empathy are going to be key factors in seeing your team through this temporary time of disorder.

How are you and your team adapting communications to suit your new environment?

Bring on the teams

team meeting concept

If you are a business leader, you will undoubtedly have some crisis management plans already in place but disruptions rarely turn out to be exactly the ones you planned for. Whilst as a manager, you might want to stick rigidly to previous devised strategies, as a business leader you need to focus on the exact circumstances of your current crisis.  

By allocating key personnel the responsibilities for securing the wellbeing of your people, the safety of your supply chain, the needs of your clients and your financial stability, you will know that you have covered the main bases. This will leave you space to focus on the further challenges that are to come. In other words, you will give yourself a fighting chance of being the inspiration your organisation needs.

How broad is your current focus? Do you need to pull back and take a wider view?

Help is at hand

You will know if you are already a good manager because you will command the respect of your team. You will also know that gaining your management skills took time and perhaps a bit of training. In business, crises come and go but the need for great business leaders never goes away

One way to develop your management skills and gain high-quality leadership skills is to undertake nationally recognised training. Upskilled’s BSB42015 - Certificate IV in Leadership and Management has been specifically created for those with some existing supervisory or management experience.

With units covering effective communication, work and team priorities and workplace leadership, this 12-month, flexible online course can help you develop the leadership skills you will need to head up an effective team when the next crisis comes along.

How is your leadership standing up to the current crisis? Where could you make improvements?
 
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