• Karim Halabi

Leading not managing: How to inspire achievement

Four strategies to get the most out of your team

The best leaders are not those who bark orders; they are those who inspire the loyalty of their team, and help capture their potential.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. They are the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan

Vineet Naygar, in the Harvard Business Review makes an interesting distinction between managers and leaders. He outlines the difference between counting value and creating value.

Managers constantly count or measure value. For instance, a manager may ask their team to report their progress every hour. Instead of actually adding value, this can actually reduce it due to the distraction and time spent reporting.

On the other hand, a leader focuses on creating value. They do this alongside their team, working in tandem. Not only does this build trust by enabling people, but it also adds to the total value created.

One such leader who embodied this was Steve Jobs, whose focus on the direction of the company and his vision instead of micromanagement helped make Apple the company it is today.

So how can we make sure we are leading, rather than managing?

Here are four of the most important traits for a leader to embody in order to inspire achievement and get the most out of the team.

1. Use open, honest communication

It probably comes as no surprise that clear communication is one of the key elements of successfully leading a team.

Through clear and transparent communication, we can build trust.

A mutual sense of trust and understanding empowers people to do their jobs better. It also saves leaders’ time. They can trust their team to get on with their tasks, instead of investing time in micromanagement and tracking progress – activities that ultimately work to monitor and rectify, not to add value.

Trust and an open channel of communication also encourages an iterative feedback loop. Having a culture of feedback is a powerful tool for a leader. It can motivate workers to improve and achieve more than they were previously, as well as empower them by helping them see what they are capable of.

Feedback enables people to improve and grow. An area that true leaders always have high on their agenda for their teams. A good leader will also seek feedback on their own performance.

2. Adopt a positive attitude

Enthusiasm is also a key attribute in every leader. Staying positive and having a bright outlook is infectious and inspires the team.

An excellent example would be Garry Ridge, CEO of the WD-40 company, whose positive approach permeates all levels of the organisation and makes for success.

Robert Mann, author of The Measure of a Leader, recommends focusing on the good in any set of circumstances. "Look at three positive things about a problem before you identify what makes it dissatisfying. The more you look at the positives in a problem, the more positively people react with one another." 

Inspiring a more positive workplace can have amazing results.

Removing negativity and stress allows people to instead focus their time and energy on meaningful work. Furthermore, the happier the individual the more productive they are. Equally, positivity increases creativity and collaboration.

A study conducted by Oxford University has found a conclusive link between the two.

Alongside increased productivity, the positive impacts of positivity and happiness are also realised with an increase in collaboration and creativity.

3. Give recognition

Appreciating the efforts and achievements of team members is essential for driving motivation and engagement. A leader will see more value added from doing this instead of focusing on their own achievements.

Recognition is constantly cited as one of the most important factors to employee motivation. Despite this, 82% of people feel they do not receive sufficient recognition for their work.

Leaders must however remain wary that different individuals like to be recognised in different ways. Being aware of these differences and really knowing your team, are all part of the greater package of being a good leader who inspires loyalty.

4. Be open to ideas

Having an open mind is another distinguishing factor of an inspirational leader.

It is someone we are unafraid to discuss new ideas with, and does not dismiss suggestions because they are not their own, or because they come from someone who may be below them in the traditional hierarchy.

In addition to encouraging collaboration, being open to ideas can help give individuals a sense of value, and a sense of being valued by their leader. This has very similar effects to those of recognition and can only serve to benefit the organisation and the wellbeing of those that make it tick.

Having the emotional intelligence and open-mindedness to realise that change is inevitable, and that progress is the sum of team efforts, can improve overall organisational performance as well as command the respect and loyalty of those around you.

Embodying these four traits can ensure that the term ‘manager’ is merely a title, and the person who occupies the position is a true leader. An individual the team follows not because they have to, but because they want to.

We would love to hear from you if you found these strategies helpful, or would like to talk further on leading rather than managing, please get in touch.

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