The need of leading from the front

The need of leading from the front

Manager mantra Preach and practice working for a common cause

Gone are the days when the boss’ words were the law. His subordinates were expected not only to listen to their boss but follow these true to the letter, whether one liked it or not.

There has been some sort of ‘revolution’ at the workplace where the boss is no longer considered a roaring tiger whose very words would strike fear and terror into the subordinates. Now those superiors are taken for their real worth and not by merely being their boss in the organisational hierarchy.

A few managers want to appear very busy in their private cabins with the door closed. Even to meet them needs prior appointment through a secretary. That puts off subordinates in approaching their boss to suggest or air grievances. No one likes such a formal set up. Contrast this with a manager whose cabin door is always open and anyone could simply knock and enter it. The only exception is that when the manager is in a confidential meeting, then he needs privacy.

There is another type the ‘walk-around-manager’ who spends less time in the cabin and more on the office floor or workplace. Such a manager is easily accessible, almost every day, when he could be approached without any hesitation. More than half of the problems are tackled by such one-to-one contact right on the spot where the action is. That also would minimise the need for sending out a note or call the concerned person to the office or even to phone.

If there is a crisis or deadline to be met, what does a team do? First reaction would be of anxiety and a worry about dealing with the tough situation on hand. Some of them, at least, within themselves decide the crisis is beyond their capability to handle. They also feel the deadline set for them is unrealistic and so bound to fail. That is the mental block that prevents an individual to think rationally and positively. It is just like giving up something without even trying. In such a situation the manager, supervisor or superior comes into the picture to boost the confidence within the members of the team.

That cannot be done by mere pep talk but much more. He would lead from the front to meet the crisis on hand head-on. That person would stay with the group leading them confidently and helpfully without hurting anyone’s ego or self-confidence. That would send a clear and loud message that the team leader is with the team and not either sitting in the cabin giving instructions or he is away from the workplace but exercising remote control by frequent and often irksome phone calls.

Teamwork

The manager is the leader of the team who leads from the front, who would preach and practice the mantra of people working together for a common cause. The manager would see to it that the friction between his team members is minimised while hurting no one’s ego. That would need certain skills to understand and appreciate each team member’s strength and weakness.

All members of the team should pull together for success. Sometimes some of them work for cross-purposes, which would delay or derail a project schedule. Timely intervention of the manager would prevent such unfortunate happenings. Much progress can be achieved when team members aim with a single purpose to fulfil the task in hand. However brilliant an individual might be, that person would still need others to see that work is completed on time and with efficiency.

A manager/supervisor/superior has to motivate the team under his/her command. That could happen when that person is sincere and honest in his/her efforts. There should be no room for favouritism or politicking. Each individual is a valuable member of the team waiting for that person’s contribution to be utilised for the good of the team. A mere fiat, such as ‘thou shall contribute,’ is not enough for that person’s willing cooperation. That person wants to know why he/she do so. Whether one likes it or not there is always the WIIIF (What Is In It For Me) factor behind an individual’s efforts. An individual works not only for the company/department but also for himself/herself too.

A manager has to recognise this factor, which could be used as a motivator. For example, a successful completion of a task might result in handsome cash bonus or promotion. It is not that every task successfully competed should be rewarded but even a word of appreciation, certificate, handshake, or a mere pat on the back itself could be sufficient reward for success. Often a manager/supervisor/superior is stingy with appreciation of the work of his/her team members while ready to blame them for failures.

Communication

A manager or anyone who leads a team should be good at communication. Sometimes a manager sends out a note about information that he/she considers important. However, that kind of input should be backed, preferably, by a brief meeting to explain the nuances, get a feedback and answer queries.

That manager who has ‘perfected’ the art of communication is considered a very good team leader because that person has already won the confidence and trust of the team members. There is no trust deficit that would lead to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. 

Some team leaders are stingy about sharing information and data with their team members, which is nothing but either ego hassles or a sense of insecurity. ‘Information is power,’ and that manager wants to keep it close to his/her chest.  A formal or informal meeting on a structured basis would help in better understanding. A successful team has a better rapport between the team members as well as the leader. A happy team is one where friction is almost non-existent and there is a feeling of well-being and a joy to work with others, an important criterion for success of team efforts towards the set goal(s).

A manager of a team does not claim that he/she is the fountainhead of knowledge. That person is willing at admit he/she is not aware of the answer but would find out from others. Moreover, he/she is willing to listen to the members of his team for suggestions, ideas and even criticisms. He would rather have someone question his/her decision rather than blindly following it. There is always a scope for dissenters who need to be convinced, with arguments and debate but not through a fiat.

However, once a team has decided on a course of action, with the majority agreeing with it, everyone has to follow it implicitly that’s how democracy should work even in a team function. There are always ‘yes’ men in a team but more importantly we need those critics who have better ideas than the boss.

The strength of a leader is derived from the combined strength of the team members. Any weak link in the team has to be recognised by the leader who should take appropriate action to counsel that person or in extreme case assign that person some other function where he/she could fit better. Dismissal or suspension may be the last step when everything fails after giving opportunities to the weak member to improve.

The success of a team depends upon the leadership quality of the manager who is leading it. A harmonious working relation between the leader and the team members is a must.

(The writer is a Consultant, Q & M)

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