In determining what we need to teach our students to succeed in business here at the Business School, I have really begun to hammer in on leadership – authentic leadership. When we think about management, it’s typical to think about controlling or directing, but the nature of what we do is built within different constructs than those. If you want to move from being just a manager to being an effective leader of your organization, there are three things you must do:
1) You must build trust.
You can’t influence people who don’t trust you. You must work to cultivate the trust of people you work with, and you do this by demonstrating two things: competence and character.
Being competent means understanding the work well enough to make solid decisions. You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but you must be as knowledgeable as you can and then have the courage to ask questions when you’re missing the information you need to inform your decision-making.
Demonstrating character means basing decisions and actions on values that go beyond self-interest. So many of us have been taught to look after #1, ourselves. But looking beyond our own self-interests is at the root of being a good parent, being in a successful relationship, or being an effective manager. You must care about the work and about the customers—both internal and external—and about those doing the work.
If people believe in your competence and character, they will trust you to do the right thing. Unless you get the trust piece right, nothing else matters.
2) You must build a real team.
Being an effective manager is not just about rules, regulations, and processes. It’s about “We’re in this together.” In a genuine team, the bonds of the team members are so strong, they believe they either succeed or fail together. You can’t become a winning team until you realize the whole team has to succeed. When you can impart a strong sense of purpose and values, your team will learn to engage and interact effectively. The best individuals will lose to the best team every time. It’s not about you. It’s about what we—the whole team— are going to do to make this better.
3) You must build a network
Every team depends on the support and collaboration of outside people and groups. Thus an effective manager must work daily to build this network. Here at the Harry F. Byrd, Jr., School of Business, for instance, we have an Advisory Board to help us stay in touch with the community and work with us to address our current and future goals. We also cannot build a successful business school without collaborating with the other school departments. We depend on each other to uphold the reputation of the whole university. Organizations must do the same in the context of their wider geographic and professional communities.
Networking is not just schmoozing and socializing. Networking can be done with honesty and integrity when you understand—and can convey—the values and goals of the whole organization to the wider community on which it depends.
If you hear someone say, “Why aren’t they following me?” there’s a good chance they’ve ignored one or more of these three management principles. This indicates that person, as a manager, needs to change himself, not expect others to change, because leadership is not just managing processes. It’s making yourself into a leader worthy of being followed. This is done by focusing on these three action steps every single day:
Build trust, build a team, and build a network.
And remember, live your dreams, not your fears.