What is the job of a leader?
You have to cope with him nearly daily: your boss. He shall lead you – but what does this actually mean? Leading is a summary of different other skills that enables one person to give other persons a structured approach to fulfill their work. Thus, leading has many levels, like
- mpathical level: This is how you personally interact with your coworkers and try to make them do their work. The empathical level is important to have a connection to the team and understand their needs, fears and weaknesses.
- Structural level: The structural level is the methods and ways you usually expect coping with tasks. Every leader has a scheme of intention how a result shall be achieved. You have to give your team structure, in day to day work and on unexpected occasions. You have to support them with infrastructure, network and training to succeed with the completion of their tasks.
- Organizatonal level: You are the representive of your company to your coworkers. What is the philosophy of the business and how can you carry the spirit into your team? As well, you might have more power but also more obligations as a superior. Be aware that your decisions can backfire and might have legal consequences. You have to place the persons at their best fit positions.
- Project level: Depending on the organizational structure of your company, the leaders are playing a role in project work, too. This is not common for hierarchical leaders, especially in higher positions but might occur. Then leaders have to give directions as project managers or task force leaders.
The points of empathic and structural level interconnect very strongly. This is explained in the how to lead article. Still, many people dream of being a boss and give orders. This is quite a “romantic” point of view. In fact, leading means to take decisions and responsibilities for the work and well-being of your co-workers and your company. Thus, many leaders are in a contradictionary situation when the company might benefit but the worker not in the short run. You have to ensure progress and this means to take the dirty work from time to time.
Leading is cultural dependent
In an international business environment, cultural dependencies of leading styles can play a huge role. As usual communication is the key – however, different cultures will communicate differently. This can mean of course that communication differs in societies like India, China, Japan, United States, Germany, Brazilia or Nigeria. But the background of this communication has to be understood.
For example, Germans are by tendency very straight forward with their communication and try to avoid marketing aspects which are not based by data. However, direct critizising someone from a culture that tends to save faces is a absolute nogo. Japanese, chinese and partly indian culture are based on this social demand. In the end, you have to be very careful to built up a culture of communication in your team to understand how each single one of your employees has to be approached and what the common sense might be.
Planning, planning and more planning
One task which is fairly unknown to many people is the main task of a leader: Planning. One has to plan the budget, the personel budget, the tasks, the demand, the effort. The higher you come, the more you have to get from a daily, tactical view to a strategic view. You have to give directions for other leaders to plan. However, do not confuse this with the position of a manager within a project. A hierarchical manager like a leader has to think out of the box: Projects come and go and you have to be prepared for the demands.
Continuous improvement is a key feature to improve the efficiency of the team. The revision of the methods, tools and infrastructure must be done from time to time to match new demands. A drive towards eversteady improvement personally and of the whole team is necessary. This also means to give the team objectives in the beginning of the year and check the overall performance. If expectations are not met, improvement actions have to take place. Again, this is everything based on planning and revision.
Leaders have to communicate with managers, their team, customers to allow a meaningfu planning and they have to feedback this planning to the other players. Thus, communication on an interpersonal level is a very important part of the job. Stopping communication let you fail. Information has to flow.
Decisions and Directions and Politics
Leaders give directions. They have responsibilities and take decisions and take responsibilities away from their coworkers (in best case=. The key point is that they can overwrite decisions because they are disagreeing on method, compliance and misplanning or other argumentations. This is a common feature and gets everytime on your nerves when your boss tells you: “No, we do it this way.” and then you might be angry but you might not know the whole story. In the end, it does not matter. As long as the decision is compliant, you have to stick to it and are freed of the consequences.