By Michael Holland

It’s not your fault that you’re not really an effective leader.  You’ve put your time in to get educated.  You’ve worked hard to move up into the ranks of management. You’ve put up with those bad bosses and countless ridiculous corporate directives and still delivered on the work you’re charged with completing.  For your employees, you’ve. . .

  • completed the performance reviews
  • had the conversations about goals
  • made sure to remember the one personal thing about each employee to bring up when you see them
  • had agendas for your staff meetings

But are you really leading well?

It’s not your fault that your college/university and your companies focused heavily on training you up to be exceptionally gifted at leading in a narrowly defined specialty while understanding how to fit in with/navigate the inner workings of the company to accomplish stuff.   The focus was on being better and better at making the organizational machine run smoother, more efficiently.

Companies spend energy and money primarily in these two buckets of  leadership education.

  1. Organizational Leadership – How to navigate through the organization and execute.  Things like budgeting, hire process, writing performance reviews, communicating internally and externally, employment law, how functions run (marketing, finance, sales, R&D, production, customer service, etc.).
  2. Functional Leadership – Focusing on the flow of work into, through and out of your business function.  You learn to lead and become an expert in the activities/events/transactions that are particular to your specialty function.  You become really effective at being a good finance leader, IT leader, sales leader, HR leader or production leader.

But there’s a third area that is really what “leadership” is about which is People Leadership.  Learning how to be an effective people leader means that you’ve learned to be deftly skilled at:

  • Building trusted relationships
  • Understanding and leveraging personality styles
  • Increasing emotional intelligence in yourself and within those you lead
  • Communicating – really communicating and listening
  • Knowing why people think and act in certain ways
  • Empowering people to the point they can fail on their own
  • Coaching to maximize performance

Think about it:

  • How many courses in college did you take that taught you about people leadership?
  • What percentage of company required training has been focused on effective people leadership? (And by the way, these types of programs don’t count: completing the performance review, recruiting processes, diversity/inclusion, annual planning)
  • What percentage of your time with your boss is spent in discussing how to build/grow your team members versus discussing the work that the team is/needs to accomplish or hasn’t yet accomplished.
  • If you did want to take a people leadership course, to whom would you turn in your company for a recommendation?

Study after study show that companies are missing huge opportunities to increase the momentum and performance of their workforce because their leadership capacity is low.  The only way to increase this capacity is to purposefully increase the people leadership capabilities within the organization.

As an individual leader, you don’t get off the hook just because your company doesn’t get “people leadership.”   You can be a mediocre manager for the rest of your life or you can choose to learn to lead well and watch the employees and teams you lead become exceptional, healthy, vibrant, energized and productive beyond your comprehension.  You’re well educated and have tremendous resources available.  Your just have to decide to do it.  And if you need somewhere to start, see the coaching thoughts below.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your company on their investment in building people leadership skills?
  • Grab a peer manager and review the list for becoming deftly skilled at people leadership.  Discuss the bullets and give each other feedback regarding how you each think the other rates on these items.
  • Don’t know where to start to invest in yourself?  Head to our #Leadwell Knowledgebase for recommended books, TED Talks, and tools or take a DiSC assessment to learn more about your management style.