Being in a leadership position is not for the faint-hearted – effective leadership requires a high level of emotional intelligence and a comprehensive understanding of one’s personal value and contribution ability. Typically, leaders get to occupy their respective management positions due to one or more of the following reasons:
- Subject matter experts – they know and can apply what they have studied and learned
- Experience – they have been working in and on the relevant processes and systems for some time and have gained considerable knowledge related to the work issues
- Demonstration of good leadership qualities – these leadership traits have come to the fore as they have interacted with others in their respective teams
- Communication ability – articulation skill, especially in relation to complex issues and the ability to listen and capture everyone’s inputs
- Personal drive – a quest to assist others and a specifically planned career growth process
- Luck – no-one else to take the role, usually coupled with the company not wanting to spend more money on hiring outside people
Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons (some good, some bad), managers need help in potentially becoming the best leaders for the people that they lead. Just having the “authority” that comes with the management position is inadequate to motivate, care for and lead employees. Many of the “good” leadership and teaching skills (like empathic listening, engaging deeply with employees, coaching towards performance improvement, etc.) can be learnt, hence the need for a coach or mentor to assist the leader in developing these abilities and perfecting them. Inter alia, a coach or a good mentor can help the manager develop in the following ways:
- Authenticity – the ability to express yourself with realness, without harming another. “Being who you are consistently” engenders trust – employees know what to expect, trust your word and don’t fear sudden outbursts of anger or the like.
- Emotional intelligence – the ability to understand the feelings that reside in yourself and in others and to manage those emotions appropriately in the workplace. Coaches can assist in developing skills to express or receive emotion in constructive ways.
- Integrity – truthfulness, honour and reliability. Managers shouldn’t cover up weaknesses and inability. Coaches can help protect your integrity with the truth – acting as a mirror for your own inner work of transformation.
- Communication excellence – the ability to listen well and to articulate requirements, expectations and suggested behaviour adjustments in a way that doesn’t frustrate or demean employees.
- Strategic thinking – the ability to “step back” from the pressing issues and relate purpose to the “big picture” direction of the company. Employees need to be connected to the vision, plan and purpose of the company and to understand the part that they have to play to achieve company goals.
Managers need coaches, too, if they are to become great leaders. A coach is a values-driven mentor that offers you solid advice, challenges your affection to your position, encourages you with respect to your vulnerabilities and brings you back to your inner compass that morally resonates with you. A coach helps you grow your sense of self and your leadership skills.