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Comment: What’s your style?

Several interactions over the years with peers, friends and colleagues have made me question that while most individuals may know how to be exemplary employees.  Do they know how they fare as managers?

From your initial job to the time you take up your first managerial role, you have a number of years to practice and perfect the skills necessary to be a good employee.  You master how to simplify your tasks, communicate and when necessary put in the extra hours to ensure that all deadlines are met.  On top of that, most companies have an established formal performance appraisal system in place.  A system in which an employee is periodically evaluated and made aware of their strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement.

In a fair system a diligent employee soon finds themselves promoted to a managerial position, faced with the pressure to prove to your bosses that you are worth your seat at the table and at the same time have the responsibility to lead a team which will help you meet your deliverables.  Add to that you are required to coach, counsel, discipline your team members and foster a good working environment.  Suddenly the “good leadership” skill set takes centre stage - an imperative skill that is essential to your continued success at the company.  

Very few people are born good leaders.  This article does not seek to imply that employees that do not naturally display proficient leadership traits do not deserve a shot. 

Having progressed from an employee (who is normally led) to a manager that is now expected to lead others, there are critical leadership issues that need to be addressed:   

  1. Do you know your leadership style? There are a diverse number of leadership styles, from autocratic to laissez faire, each with its own pros and cons not withstanding that each style has a place and time to be applied depending on the situation. 
  2. Do you know what you are doing well and which areas you need to develop?
  3. How much time are you dedicating to developing the skills essential to be a capable leader?   
  4. How can the organisation you work for assist you to develop into a good leader?

The final question is actually the most important of them all and where it all starts. 

It is essential that each manager is periodically and objectively evaluated on his/her leadership skills by those that he/she leads.  Once this has been done, he/she becomes aware of their leadership style and is thus in a position to continue doing what they are doing well and work towards improving the areas they are not so good at. 

Each company has the responsibility to implement a formal system that allows for the continued evaluation of all managers by those that they lead. Without it, how does the entity expect their leaders to fully develop? 

This area is often neglected because usually as a manager, he/she is assessed on their ability to deliver and not necessarily on how they have achieved it.  Below are a few scenarios to help illustrate my point:-

  1. Manager A despite receiving the draft board packs on time begun his/her review process late and everyone in the team had to work all night clearing the concerns he/she raised so that the board packs are circulated on time.
  2. Manager B did not diarise an Executive Committee meeting and authorised a leave request for his/her subordinate.  On realising this, the manager revoked the leave and his/her subordinate had to cancel their plane ticket and incurred a financial loss.   
  3. Manager C gave his/her subordinate an instruction on how to complete the task.  The subordinate had an alternative method and when he/she communicated it, the manager was on their mobile phone (distracted) and insisted his/her method is best. 

In all the scenarios above, each manager looks great to his/her boss, after all he/she has delivered on time and had the necessary tasks completed, but how does the team under him/her view them.  Was it the best way to achieve the desired result?

Isolated incidents of this nature happen and quite often the manager’s actions are justified.  The issue comes when such incidents become the norm and not the exception.  For instance, Manager A and B may need to develop their task management skills and Manager C his/her interpersonal skills. 

How do subordinates raise these issues in a safe environment without fear of victimisation, if the company does not have a formal managed system in place?   

So my question to mangers out there is…..What’s your style? And to the companies they work for – What are you doing about it?

Nyaradzo Mushangwe is group financial controller at Simbisa Brands Limited and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Zimbabwe

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