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!