Can you be a leader or a manager if you’re not really a people person?
There’s a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is no. The long one is nooooooo. It’s just not possible – not in the workplace of tomorrow.
Learning the skills of management and leadership can be difficult. It can be difficult even working out what the skills of management and leadership are.
In every organisation I have ever worked with, people new to leadership roles have said to me, and with a degree of exasperation, “I haven’t had any management training, you know!” They mean that no one has ever told them how to cope with and respond to the huge number of people-related issues that they face on a daily basis.
Many of us get promoted because we have excellent technical ability in an area. Once in the longed-for position of leadership, there’s an assumption that we will just ‘know’ how to deal with tricky people issues, such as a member of staff who is having a hard time in their personal life and is underperforming as a result.
Somehow, we ‘should’ have the magic formula for helping a talented but under confident person in our team reach their potential. Usually we fall back on whatever we have seen other people do in these situations, our teachers, our parents, our previous managers.
And often, what we fall back on doesn’t fit what’s actually needed in the here and now.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone who held a leadership position invested in developing their ability to listen to, question and develop others?
I think it would revolutionise the workplace (if not our wider society) to be able to really listen, with head, heart and soul – to read the nuances and patterns that are behind what sits on the surface.
For me, great leaders are those who have learned to develop the people around them to be more self-managing and more resilient. They find themselves and their organisations ahead of those trickier learning curves as a result.
In my work with organisations and individuals, I have seen the magic that can occur in a manager’s experience of managing others when they learn the skills and attitudes that characterise great coaching and mentoring.
It doesn’t take much to take a significant first step in this journey. And the even better news is that it doesn’t take much to take the second and third steps either.
The trick is to recognise that it’s a lifelong journey – not something you can master in a weekend.