Being a leader does not always mean taking control, leading the charge and being the face of it all. Effective leaders know how to give direction, predict outcomes and manage teams from a quiet position; behind.
Being the solid foundation from which your team can operate is a challenge for many ‘natural’ leaders. Maybe this is because our society has favoured extroverts as leaders. However, the volume of your voice the ferocity of your temper does not make you a good leader, just a threatening manager. True leadership is the ability to inspire, to motivate, to guide a team of people towards a single goal and allowing each player to fulfil their role to the best of their ability.
It takes time to establish a reputation that engenders trust. You require humility, grace, technical and interpersonal skills, and a willingness to work as part of a team.
Some people grab a leadership role. They impose themselves on others, bully employees into submission and blindly give orders. While this style of intimidation and fear will usually see the work completed, it often also leads to higher staff turnover, and costs.
To establish trust, especially as the newcomer to an existing team, there are things that you can do. However, if you are not sincere in your approach, they are unlikely to work. Choose the methods that work best for you and those who are part of your team. Without a genuine interest, these methods will actually have the opposite effect and erode the respect that you hope to build.
- Host regular one on one meetings and listen to responses
- Understand your team’s strengths, weaknesses and motivations
- Tailor tasks to suit employee skills wherever possible
- Acknowledge the success of your team
- Have a real open door policy and understand that your job is to support your team, not complete tasks
Have you ever owned a dog?
No, your team is not a wolf pack, and nor should you treat them as such, allowing them to feast only after you’ve taken the choice pickings for yourself. However, if you’ve ever been a leader to a dog that craves guidance, you will understand what it takes to guide a team in times of upheaval.
Some dogs just need more structure, more attention, more stimulation. If you don’t provide it, they will be destructive, inattentive and potentially dangerous. Some employees react the same way when given what they need to succeed.
A confident leader sets tasks, communicates expectations and remains calm in times of stress. A confident leader guides employees towards solutions and takes the reigns only to support a team who need to understand a vision. A leader is the person employees can depend to be solid while they crumble under pressure. A leader sits in a pace of confidence and sees the big picture. One missed deadline is not the failing of the team, but a lesson to be learned.
Some managers want to micromanage teams. For the glory or for the control, either way, this type of manager is not a true leader who engenders the trust and following of confident employees. Highly skilled people become exhausted working under an ever-present boss who stifles creativity and takes credit for all the good and no responsibility for the mistakes.
It is important that such managers are identified. Some managers take this approach because they don’t understand that there is a better way. Others can never change, and those people are not an asset to your leadership team. Self-confidence in a manager is essential. That self-confidence needs to come from a pace of actual achievement and not ego. That self-confidence is developed under other strong leaders who guide, redirect and allow for mistakes and achievements to be recognised as learning opportunities.
So how do you guide a team?
- Have self-confidence based on achievements, not ego
- Share your vision and expectations with your team
- Guide people towards success by observation
- Be the calm in the storm
- Allow people to make mistakes and learn
- Always support your team as a whole entity
Leading from behind really is about stepping back. Trusting your team to do their job with you to turn to for support is the key. As a leader, your job is not to do each task or watch over the shoulder of your team, it is to understand the overall goal, to communicate this and facilitate each person fulfilling their task in order to contribute to the whole. Your job is to know all the elements and coordinate the coming together of your team, and the best view of that operation is from the back, where you can see the direction of everyone in front of you.