Managers, Leaders and Human Beings

Leadership: the magic word that everybody wants to use and be associated with. Thousands of books published, thousands of conferences, classes, etc. Who do we think of when we think about ‘great leaders’? What kind of behaviors and attributes come to mind?

We think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., M. Gandhi and mother Theresa -to name a few very visible non-arguable leaders. What do they have in common? People wanted to follow them. Did they have authority or formal power over them and asked to be followed? Ordered people to follow them? No, people chose to follow them willingly.

We will use that definition of leadership: a leader is that who inspires people to follow her.

It is this capacity of leadership that can bring the energy of the organization to focus on and achieve its strategic objectives. True leadership should be able to unite the desires and energy of the organization to own the strategic vision and objectives, hence mobilizing it towards achieving them. Leadership tasks: inspiring, energizing, mobilizing.

Managerial tasks, on the other hand, are related to structure, control, order and organization. Not much inspiration here.

So, a manager is NOT necessarily a leader, and vice versa. Nothing new so far.

Historically, managers have been appointed based on their technical experience,ability to get results (independent of the method) and/or academics,among the most important; we all know that these qualifications very rarely guarantee that these candidates posses the ability to inspire, energize and mobilize, in addition to the required attributes of a manager. Nothing new so far…

This article is about one step toapproach the beginning of the development of leadership skills in ourmanagers. A lot of companies invest significant resources in’leadership development programs’, the questions are: what do theyconsider the return of that investment to be? And is it below or aboveexpectations?

Establishing an authentic connection with thosearound them is a key element of the ability of leaders to inspire. What’s an authentic connection?

• You are perceived as trustworthy
• You are perceived as authentic
• You are perceived as genuinely interested in others – or in the person in front of you at the moment

But,how do you know that you are perceived as trustworthy, authentic andgenuinely interested in other people? It is by the perception thatpeople develop based on YOUR BEHAVIOR. People can see through skin andguess that you have ‘a good heart’, or ‘good intentions’… the onlyway to ‘know’ someone -is through their actions.

Human beings…

I suggest that before most of us can effectively deal with other people’s perceptions, especially when they don’t match our own perception of ourselves, we need to go back to the basics: remembering managers ARE, before anything else, HUMAN BEINGS.

As human beingswe bring ourselves to work without being able to ‘check our luggage atthe door’ when we get to the office/workplace. This means that we comein with everything: their strengths, skills and experience but alsowith their fears and insecurities, childhood traumas -yes-, personalagendas, aspirations, and conflicts, among other things (like everyoneelse).

That the managers are human beings and have fears,frustrations and developmental needs is not what’s most important, but that, in most cases THEY DON’T recognize it. In other words, they are not aware of this personal baggage that we all have and carry.

Theimplications of this lack of awareness can be very taxing to ourrelationships and if we are in the business of “creating authenticconnections with others to inspire, energize and motivate them”, that’snot a good thing.

Think about a manager with whom you’ve had towork: how congruently does she act, in your perception? What kinds ofbiases does she enact on a daily basis, of which she’s clearly notaware of? How many times have people tried to call her attention to anissue about her behavior getting her immediately in denial?

Being aware of our ‘personal baggage’ is not going to makeits effects disappear, but it is the first step to dealing with it in away that doesn’t negatively affect our relationships, both personal andprofessional, and ultimately our effectiveness as leaders.

Without responsibly becoming aware that we are before anything, human beings and that we carry around our own ‘luggage’ (our own ‘demons’), we can’t aspire to be more ‘present’, engaging, authentic leaders.

by Natalie Hernandez (Brazil)