Management? or Leadership?

This year marks my 23rd year on the job market.

Over the years, I’ve had plenty of job titles: Translator, Linesman, French Teacher, Butcher, Recruiter, College Counselor, the list goes on and I’d be hard-pressed to list them all.

I’ve worked part-time jobs while studying full-time, and I’ve had full-time jobs while taking night classes as a part-time student. Some jobs had been my only source of income, while one summer I once held 3 jobs at the same time! I’ve worked summer jobs, temp jobs, long-term jobs. I’ve been a contractor, sub-contractor, permanent employee, intern. I’ve had cozy, unionized jobs with full medical and dental plans, and I have also worked precarious, miserable jobs with no security.

In all those years of experience, I’ve come across as many managers as job titles; too many to count. Some of these managers were wonderful, inspiring human beings who left a life-long impression on me. Unfortunately, many more were mediocre at best, and have faded from my memory.

So what then makes a good manager?

In my experience, it boils down to one word: Leadership. Managers direct, order, and discipline their subordinates, while Leaders, on the other hand, influence, guide, coach, and essentially lead by example.

Does that mean being a leader is good and being a manager is bad?

Not at all! To be successful when in charge of a team you need to be both. You need the flexibility to recognize when a situation (or personality type) calls for a direct, frontal strategy. Conversely, you must be perceptive in discerning when a more indirect, empathetic approach is needed.

The same goes for cultural awareness. When I was first tasked with leading a team of Indonesian employees, I must admit I was unsuccessful at the onset. North Americans such as myself are usually formal in business settings – business first! I had to (un)learn and adapt to a different business culture, reality, and customs.

If work was due, my initial, curt approach was as follows: Hi Eka, can you finish those reports right away? Thanks! Hope you had a nice weekend. This behavior elicited lukewarm results.

Through observations and trial and error, I concluded that mirroring my colleagues would lead to better outcomes. Hence I wanted to add warmth and get more personal in my approach, being genuinely interested in Eka’s life: Good morning, Eka! How was your weekend? How’s your family doing? By the way, if you could take care of those reports that would be great, thanks!

This willingness to forgo my initial impulse to get down to business and fully partake in pleasantries has enabled me to connect with my team members in a more profound, meaningful way beyond a professional context.

Doing so has allowed us to become a tight-knit, highly efficient, and successful team. Along the way we have built strong, lasting personal relationships that sometimes even extended outside the workplace.

That’s what makes a good manager.

With teammates located at the four corners of the world, I get to learn even more from my multinational colleagues at AddedEducation. Each one of us brings something unique and extremely valuable to the table. By building strong relationships internally–having a genuine interest in what makes others click–I firmly believe we can mutually enrich each other’s lives in a big way. Collectively, we are better equipped to adapt to the specific situations and aspirations of each family we work with.

After all, we are in the business of making big dreams come true!