Why is it so important for a manager to be have effective leadership skills? To me, the answer is simple.
If all you ever wanted was for people to come to work on time and do what’s specified in a job description, you could just manage them the way you do anything else, such as funds, tools, equipment, supplies, etc. You wouldn’t need people skills.
But what most managers really want is for team members to do their best work – both individually and as a coordinated effort.
People have talent. They have energy. They have the potential to be creative. They can be bold, patient, persistent, and a lot of other things as they work through tough challenges.
The problem is, even if they’re capable of delivering this kind of effort, they don’t have to. There’s a certain level of performance – and they know what it is – that’s specified in their job description. To keep their jobs, that’s what they have to do. When the boss tells them to do something, that’s what they have to do.
But this level of effort is what managers recognize as “business as usual.” It’s not the kind of high performance team members are capable of. What managers want most are things that can’t be specified or measured: courage, compassion, commitment, composure, optimism, decisiveness, and dozens of other aspects of performance. You can’t demand these things and you can’t hold people accountable for them.
To get what you really want in the workplace, you have to lead others. You have to grow them into the kind of people who do these things. You have to inspire them to do it. You have to support them and encourage them. You need effective leadership skills. Eventually, when they know the leader, like the leader, respect the leader and trust the leader, then they may choose to give that level of effort. And if they do, day in and day out, work will become very satisfying to them. And of course it will be satisfying to the manager.
Have you ever had a boss you admired and trusted so much that you’d do anything for him? Someone who gave you the responsibility, authority, freedom of action, and recognition you felt you deserved? Did you love coming to work every day because you knew your boss believed in you? If so, you wanted to do your best for him, even though you knew you could just get by doing what was required.
Or you may have had a “problem boss,” someone with poor people skills and who micro-managed you. Maybe this person was self-serving or had questionable ethics. If so, then you know you never felt the desire to do what you were capable of doing.
I have a service background, and as a consultant I’ve worked in a variety of bureaucratic environments, and many times I quickly sized up what was going on. Often, it wasn’t “high performance.” It was just “showing up for work” and doing what employees could be held accountable for. I learned that not a whole lot of leadership was going on.
And that’s why effective leadership skills are so important in an organization. It’s not rocket science, but it’s the real reason why managers need to make the effort to develop the people skills and personal strengths that will make them better leaders.