The Manager As A Leader

By Alvin Mason

Entrepreneurs, administrators, and managers at all levels must understand and possess leadership qualities. Understanding leadership can help a person become a more effective manager. This discussion will focus on some of the variables with leadership.

The meaning of a manager:

  1. A person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it.
  2. A person who manages
  3. A person who controls and manipulates resources and expenditures of an organization

To manage means:

  1. To bring about or succeed in accomplishing
  2. To take charge or care of
  3. to handle, direct, govern, or control in action or use

The meaning of leader:

  1. A person who leads
  2. A guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group

To lead means:

  1. To influence or induce
  2. To guide in direction, course, action, opinion, etc

There are different roles of leaders depending on the organization. The basic leaders are:

  1. Business Leader
  2. Family Leader
  3. Political Leader
  4. Military Leader
  5. Religious Leader
  6. Sports Leader

The manager or entrepreneur is a business leader. A non-elective government administrator and a nonprofit supervisor, functions as a leader essentially the same as a business manager. An elected government position both legislative and administrative would be classified as political leaders. However elected administrators such as mayors and governors have many business leader functions coupled with political leader restraints and considerations. It is also important to note that nonprofit executives have public relation considerations related to fundraising.

The manager, specifically middle managers, must relate objectives from upper management to their subordinates while communicating obstacles that their team encounters to upper management.

The Entrepreneur must relate the business objectives to their employees and minimize or eliminate obstacles the business encounters.

In addition to communicating objectives, both the manager and entrepreneur must lead their respective teams in accomplishing set goals.

A manager should always increase their knowledge base as it pertains to their area of responsibility. With a strong knowledge base they can answer questions and train new workers or help out when necessary. Have you ever been frustrated when you asked a manager a question that they should be able to answer and they could not respond?

A manager who does not have expertise in their area of responsibility should have an assistant with expertise and/or institutional knowledge that he or she can confide with. That knowledgeable person should be treated as a confident with the utmost respect. A leader should realize when they need other people.

A manager should also lead by example. Examples include being punctual, not gossiping, and putting in a honest day of work. Perhaps the most important example a leader should demonstrate is how to deal with customers and clients. The example should include always greeting customers with a, "hello" or "how are you", and being courteous. Courtesy always includes speaking to customers when one is busy. A customer should always be acknowledged. When a worker is busy serving a customer they should be trained and shown by example to say, "Hello I will be with you shortly, have a look around and if you have a question I might be able to multi-task and answer your question as I service this person. I am sorry for the inconvenience".

Everyone should always remember that everybody has a cell phone and can shoot a video of you not at your best. Such a video if embarrassing and released to the public could result in a manager being fired or an entrepreneur going into damage control.

The manager and entrepreneur have position power. Position power is power that is inherent in the position they have. Too many times the position that a person has is bigger than the person themselves. To be more effective and appreciated as a leader and manager, a person with position power should also have personal power.

Personal Power comes when a person is liked and/or respected. It emanates from the way a person treats other people. Basically speaking respect goes two ways and personal power is achieved when respect is given.

The respect that leads to personal power can also be achieved when the leader works with and beside the staff. A person should never ask another to do something that they would not do. The working manager concept integrates managers working with their staff. This concept is prevalent in the food service industry where the manager experiences with the staff the pressure to produce and the lunch rush. This is working while leading. In the military, officers and non-commissioned officers are on the front lines in the danger zone with the troops under their command.

A person with personal power many times also has the power of persuasion. This is a great ability especially helpful in the sales industry. It is also useful and many times necessary in the legislative process. However, deal making is not leadership, it is negotiating. Persuasion is an asset in management when trying to convince senior management on a course of action or encouraging the staff to buy into a policy.

It was once considered that there were generally two types of leaders:

  1. Task Orientated Leaders who are concerned primarily with completing the task or objectives of the mission.
  2. People Orientated Leaders who are concerned primarily with the concerns and/or the feelings of people.

Years ago Douglas McGregor classified workers in two groups:

  1. Theory X workers were inherently lazy and unhappy.
  2. Theory Y workers were self motivated and disciplined.

Theory X managers tend to be autocratic making decisions with little or no input from employees. Whereas, theory Y managers are more democratic in their style, encouraging employee input in decision making.

Effective Leaders will adhere to what was called the Contingency Theory where the task at hand, the ability of the workers, and time restraints will determine the leadership style.

Managers should evaluate input from their team before making changes. Workers will feel more invested and respected when they are consulted before decisions are implemented. It is never good to implement a new policy or procedure without communicating to the staff that change is coming. Whenever change is forced on a workforce without prior knowledge, it can cause morale problems and a loss of productivity as the workers discuss amongst themselves the new policy. Whenever an outside consultant is hired to develop a new policy they should consult with the staff. The fact that a consultant was hired to make improvements to an existing program or organization, is evidence that the management is limited in their ability or does not have the confidence of upper management or the top executives in the organization that hire the consulting firm have a relationship with that firm.

The best leaders are also great motivators. A leader/manager can motivate people by being a good person. Little things like giving a worker a task by asking them to do something or at times saying, "can you do me a favor", then give them the task. Once it is completed the person in authority can say, "thank you". This is positive motivation.

The opposite of positive motivation is negative motivation which most of the time is fear motivation. Today too many times fear is used in organizations. It is not uncommon for a new manager to fire an employee who was previously considered a good worker just to send a message to the other people that I am the boss and I have power over you. Many times subordinates are afraid to disagree or point out to manager"s foreseeable problems in a plan or policy the manager is instituting. Fear motivation is widely used by supervisors who are insecure.

A good manager will increase the positives under their control and decrease the negatives. A manager is also a problem solver. All problems should be addressed ASAP. Once the problem is addressed it should be corrected within a reasonable time.

Too many times I have seen problems linger without being addressed. One example is the air conditioning (ac) in the fitness center where I live. The ac has not been working for over two weeks. The property management has been notified of the problem, yet they don"t have the courtesy to put a sign up in the room apologizing for the inconvenience and discomfort and stating that we are addressing the issue. Many times I personally have reported issues to managers of different organizations and the response was of an unconcerned nature. At least a manager should act like they are concerned. Yes fake it, political leaders do it all the time.

There are many times when a manager needs to take initiative. Inventory control is one area where managers have become too complacent. How many times do you go to the store and the item you seek is not available? That should only happen occasionally. However when the same item is consistently out of stock, then the inventory level needs to be adjusted.

Many organizations use an automated inventory system sometimes called the Reorder Point (ROP) system. When inventory reaches a certain level, stock is automatically reordered. When an item is out of stock more than twice in a short period then the inventory level needs to be adjusted. Example: Look for over-the-counter allergy medicine in the spring.

The manager should contact someone to adjust the inventory level, instead of putting the wrong products in the out-of-stock items labeled shelf space. By taking initiative to adjust the inventory level, the manager is performing the duties he or she was hired to do which is taking care of the stores customers by improving the customers shopping experience. Of course it is possible that inquiring about adjusting the inventory level will be met with resistance as the adjustment can only be accomplished with a minimal amount of work. Unfortunately some people don't want to do anything!

Today, it is too common for managers treat problems they were hired to deal with as routine occurrences with no urgency to correct.

Let me tell you about two instances where I know that leadership and management were what I consider an embarrassment.

The first example concerns, a company I am very familiar with has a major cleaning (janitor service) contract in a Federal Government building. The company does not have enough employees at this site and the service is not as good as it should be. This problem is compounded when employees call out sick or go on vacation. To work in this building requires a security clearance which is offered as the reason for the staff shortage. In addition, cleaning tools and supplies are often limited which causes the day crew and the night crew to take each other's equipment. It is mind boggling that this management negligence can happen as every company in the industry would love to have this contract.

The second example became aware to me, when I took my daughter back to college for her second year. The cable and internet service provider was being changed and the new company was wiring on the roof of her building. One of the school administrators was present and I asked what happened. He informed me that the college was changing providers because the previous company did not give good service or correct problems. There are almost 10,000 students in the dormitories and in on campus housing. The students did not pay monthly service charges as this service was included in room and board. For a cable service provider to allow a lucrative contract to be lost to poor performance is mind boggling. The company should have had a mini service office (at least a trailer), with a small staff located at the school.

These are two examples of a lack of leadership and management. The worst thing that can happen to an individual is that they become complacent. When a manager or any person becomes callous and insensitive to problems then they need to take inventory of themselves. I tell people don't become one of them. Them, is a term I use for people who don't care anymore. Leading by example includes caring about the task as well as the people.

The manager also leads by preventing problems. One example of preventing a problem that could be an embarrassment to a hotel is bed bugs. A manager should make certain that the maid staff is trained to recognize bed bugs. Many times there is a language difference between the manager and the housecleaning staff. Avoiding this type of problem is one important aspect of a managers responsibility. Managers should be aware that there are websites reporting many problems as there is one for bedbugs.

Many times a manager's hands are tied, in many cases because of profit concerns. In other words the profit of the organization or bonus of a manager is more important than the comfort and convenience of their clients and customers. In plain English, the organization does not want to spend the money to correct the problem. Government is a prime example of inefficiency and the inability to correct a problem. The bureaucracy of government allows problems to feaster which frustrates real leaders. As I said before, when as a manager or leader you become insensitive to problems, it is time to take a personal inventory of yourself.

At times a problem will make it necessary for a manager to go over his immediate supervisors head. A Leader should not be afraid to buck the system sometimes challenging authority to correct a problem. The manager/leader should weigh the aspects of the problem against the expense of correcting it before confronting upper management on a policy of allowing a problem to linger. Before a manager approaches his immediate supervisor's superior he should be sure that his boss's boss has the authority to correct a problem and is a no nonsense individual who will appreciate such a report. As a matter of record the first line manager should send an email to his superior outlining the problem. This is also a way of protecting yourself if the stuff hits the fan. Many times once a problem becomes a serious issue the blame game starts.

A good leader is also professional. Once a decision is made the manager/leader has to adhere to that decision, regardless of their personal feelings. Professionalism means minimizing all negative talk concerning the aforementioned decision. Just encourage others to adjust to the decision the best they can.

A good leader will take initiative to include investigating problems and potential problems. All managers and leaders should take a systematic approach to problem solving. This approach is as follows:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Analyze the causes of the problem
  3. Evaluate alternative solutions
  4. Determine the optimal solution
  5. There are many times in a leader/manager's daily routine that they will encounter a problem that requires a solution without much thought just action. For instance if you are the manager of a restaurant and the ice machine is not working instead of telling customers there is no ice (it happens), buy some ice at the store. Remember management and leadership means solving problems.

    In any report the manager has to decide between a detail orientated report or a concise report. I prefer details, however many in upper management prefer a concise report. The author of the report should determine if his or her audience is a detail person or one who does not like to read. A concise report often leaves out important details and doesn't discuss variables. A way to include all relevant information is the have a concise summary followed by the detailed report.

    Great leaders can integrate all people's individual goals, with the primary goals of the organization. When all workers believe goals both career and personal are being met as the organizational goals are being accomplished then moral is increased and inefficiency is decreased. The most successful coaches in sports are able to successfully integrate individual goals with organizational goals.

    As a manager and/or leader you will find that the best employees care. A person who cares is not a measurable asset. Caring is not usually put in employee evaluations or asked in interviews. A person who cares will go the extra mile or tell the manager of a problem or when something is about to run out. As a manager or leader when you have an employee who cares they should be rewarded and respected. You can show your appreciation by being flexible with their work schedule or allowing a requested day off.

    Of course great leadership and effective management incorporate great communication skills both oral and written. The skill to communicate should actually mean communicating, not only to your staff and superiors but also to others who may interact or be affected by your department. With effective communication the leader should create relationships with neighboring organizations and other departments within the organization or the building you work in. When your department is undertaking an action that could affect another department, then you should alert the other department manager of the coming action. Effective relationship building should also allow you to be given advanced notice of work by others that might affect your area.

    One of the biggest frustrations a person can encounter is the chaos that results in an unannounced disruption to ones routine.

    Sophisticated management or mature leadership should result in work being organized in a logical manner. One event should not be put before another event if the first event will have to be done over after the second event is completed. For instance fix the roof, and then paint the walls before finishing the floor. With cleaning generally start from the top to the bottom. Every operation has a best way of attacking the work and the leader/manager should but some thought into the best way to accomplish a given goal. Employees who actually do the work will appreciate logical coordination in the planning process. This is another way that leaders gain respect.

    A great leader is not insecure. A leader should listen to people who disagree with a plan or policy and use the substance of the disagreement to improve the plan. Never terminate an employee just for having a different view. A great leader does not need to surround themselves with yes people.

    One thing that is very important for leaders in upper management. Leaders must keep up with advancements in technology. What is good today might be gone tomorrow. Today many people don't read printed publications. Research is done largely over the internet. The failure of leaders to appreciate technology and be at the forefront of changing habits, are why the passenger railroad industry and more recently the bookstore industry are having problems.

    The leader in upper management also has to have an eye on competition, especially emerging competitors. Years ago Sears was the number one retailer and then came Wal-Mart. The management of Sears should have seen Wal-Mart coming and maybe bought them out. The same thing happened to the American auto industry.

    A great leader will also encourage their subordinates to grow. A leader's imprint on others will be similar to a strong tree with strong branches.

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