10 commandments for great leaders

Leadership is a lot like wine, it requires an acquired taste and it only gets better with time; which may or may not apply to management. Unlike being a manager, leadership is not bound by hierarchy but is the right of every individual; hence even the newest of entrants of a company may display “Captain America” kind of leadership qualities as compared to the person who has been managing them.


The debate between managers and leaders is never ending, however in this note I am going to try and list down 10 qualities that everyone should possess when they aspire to taking on a team leading role in their company.


Point your teams in the right direction and do not draw them a map to the destination:


As experienced professions we tend to believe that our own experiences is the only way of doing things, whereas there might have been a better way back in the day when you were starting your career and there is defiantly a good chance now, when you are telling your team to follow. Your teams need to learn to explore, experience the angst of making their own decisions and most importantly need to learn to innovate in their own spheres of work. As their reporting manager it should be your endeavor to mentor and not dictate, because no one wants an army of drone clones as foot soldiers, we need those drones to have a brain of their own too.


Have complete faith that your team will screw up:

Life is one big college and every experience is a learning, but one will only learn when they try and fail or try and succeed. As team managers we should give our teams the freedom to try new things and be well prepared that they might not always succeed the firth time. This is where you step in with your worldly wisdom and decipher the mystery of how things did not workout. I have seen many managers not let their teams fail, because it would mean an added effort of managing an unpleasant discussion with affected departments. Those managers would rather force a tried and tested method onto their people than let their teams try anything new at all.


You are not Google or my wife! :


As strange as it sounds and the wife comment only meant to add some humor in my otherwise dry note; so apologies in advance for those who are offended, but the reason I said this was because only Google or my wife would know everything about everything! If you not one of them, then I am sorry to break the news to you, but life has been cruel to you and you are nothing but a common man like the rest of us. I strongly believe that age does not define if you can teach and neither does it define what you learn. It’s a myth that the learning process is only one way, from the top down and a bigger myth being that only team managers know everything. Give your teams an open ear and mentor them with your years of experience. Let them take ownership and partner them with the accountability.


Empower and then delegate:


Gone are the days when effective delegation was how effectively you distributed work and got it done from your team. Today, it’s important to empower your teams before delegating, because only when you make yourself redundant via the performance of your team will your move up the value chain. I am sorry to say this, but even monkeys will do tricks if trained to but can never take your place. Your job as a team manager is to develop those monkeys and help them complete that one step in evolution to make them humans again. Effective delegation is the art of effective empowering.


Stop micro managing:


Team managers who micro manage are people who find it extremely difficult to trust anyone and believe that they are the main ingredient to a superb dish, but sadly it’s not the ingredients that makes a mouthwatering dish it is the chef! The journey form product to producer is next to impossible for a manager whose style is governed around the myth that only he can do it right. This is a compulsive disorder in most but curable in many. The good news is that we follow management styles that we have been exposed to and hence in most cases it not a disorder but is the lack of being exposed to different styles of management. The bottom line here is to give your teams space to do their jobs and not to interrupt them every step of the way just because you feel it gives you comfort. Such team managers not old force their people but also blame them for the job not done in time; whereas the fact is that their constant interference has eaten into their productive time.


Team architecture:


This is really broad topic and I will write an elaborate article on it, but for now what is important for any team manager to know is how effective is his “team structure”. A structure that cannot cater to building an additional level or small cosmetic changes, or ones with weak foundations will only lead to the building collapsing. It’s very important for a manager to have the right composition in his team and the adequate number. For example If having a second line of managers, an MIS resource and a quality resource, can make your team more productive then one must showcase its merits to higher management and get them onboard. Thumb rule in designing team structures is to ensure you have adequate people for production, at least 1 person managing data and 1 role designed to take care of governance. Well you guys are experts but production, tracking and governance are the 3 pillars to an effective team structure so design accordingly.


Public reprimanding and private rewarding:


A lot of managers follow this style of working only to build fear in the team. The art of public reprimanding can be used when the situation tantamount to moral turpitude or misappropriation of funds, but only to set an example. Other than those 2 situations I think it’s a waste and does not deserve a human response when used on. Praise needs to be open and immediate or it will lose its value. Simple recognition can go a long way and is the number one reason for people leaving their jobs today. The lack of being appreciated coupled with public humiliation crushes the soul of a budding professional. As responsible managers is our responsibility to reverse the phrase; publicly praise and privately reprimand is the way to go.


Respect your teams time:


In a world where time is money and the boss is always right, I find young professionals paying puppet to their managers time, only to sit back late trying to finish their own work or there is hell waiting for them the next day. Calling people to work on weekends is no new trend in corporates, but more often than not you will have the managers not present with their teams on such days or would find them with their teams, but alas only at a time that suits them. As team managers we need to live and let live. Work is extremely important, but if unscheduled meetings and weekend working starts becoming the DNA of a company then my friends it time to look into your own manpower needs or look at perfecting your process flow to bring about a higher level of efficiency.


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy:


Office parties are a fun time where the entire team is off work and just gunning to have a good time. It’s at such events that a manager can identify some innate qualities of their team members that never came out in office. Having a good time with your team should be planned as well as unplanned, where your teams get those small bursts of respite. But please do not start talking shop there too, or you will see the attendance of such gatherings going down and the one time enthusiast dreading being in an offline environment where work was going to be discussed. My fellow managers, learn to let you hair down and just have a good time. I think you have earned it too!


Nobody is indispensable and you get recognized because you have earned it:


The first thing my dad taught me when I started my career was that nobody was indispensable so always give your 100% and do not worry if it does not get you either a stable job or recognition, because all that matters is that it buys you a good night sleep knowing that you have done your best. As a manager I have made it a point to try and mentor my teams to grown an attitude like the one my dad trained me for. It is our responsibility that we do not use fear and the feeling of charity as tools to drive our teams, but we infuse their characters with this basic fact of professional life. Learn to kill fear and build on the character of your teams, it will go a long way.


Bonus Point:


A great leader will always take a decision at the right time, regardless of what their outcomes eventually turn out to be. This concept echoes the same sentiments as the saying “Justice delayed is justice denied” and when people approach us for direction, it is our duty to show the way. At the end of the day, we need to remember that people work for people and your leadership skills would decide the outcome of any situation.

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