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Skills of a Good Manager in the Workplace
Good managers and leaders are not born. A leader is developed as a person chisels his or her personality, a personality that proves persuasive enough for others to follow. Leadership is not having a title and a big office. It is not telling others what to do. It is not necessarily having others follow you. It is to have enough influence with people to get them to act in their best interests.
The workplace is the single perfect setting for assembling leadership qualities. Although we all will not have a formal title, we are expected to lead our own work efforts with the skill and tenacity a higher-up position would require of us. (Tip: This is how you get a higher-up position.) On a job converge all the resources to hammer and fashion good management qualities into a shiny coat of armor—the ultimate task, clients and customers, management and co-workers, duties and responsibilities, policy and law, plans and contingencies, personal and family cares. Surely there are more but these—and the mix-ups and challenges that come with them—provide more than enough opportunity for us to develop proper responses that showcase thought in leadership. Let’s talk about two important ways work contributes to our leadership development.
You are fortunate if your work offers you opportunity for advancement, and promotion to a supervisory level is important. The chance to lead another person is not something to be taken lightly: just being considered is an honor. A supervisor is able to enhance another person’s job quality by his or her own knowledge and experience. It is an incredible opportunity to act responsibly and to lead well, completely contrary to “the boss” or “the man” mentality.
Moreover, there are some duties in management that test our own critical thinking and interpersonal skills. One of these is the ability to train others, which means a commitment to making valuable employees. Lack of training is a major reason why people are dissatisfied with their jobs, and it is often negligence on the part of management, not the worker. Sure, employees must be clear about their needs, but sometimes workers may not know the questions to ask when they’ve reached the end of their knowledge base and frustration has begun to set in. This is where it is important for the supervisor to be watchful and able to advise.
Another duty of a supervisory role is policy enforcement. There are a few points here. In order for one to enforce policy he himself must have a good grasp of the rule. A good manager must be committed to his own research beyond what is verbalized or found in a handbook because usually what is most needed to know for the job comes with on-the-job experience. This is where rapport with co-workers becomes essential. The supervisor acts on behalf of all the people served. How can their knowledge be supplied if his isn’t? He must take all the necessary time to learn policy inside-out.
But a grasp of the rule does not presume one’s adherence to that rule. A supervisor must follow policy strictly and lead with reasonableness and common sense. No leader is respected that excludes himself from the demands he places on employees. This is hypocrisy and unfairness.
Then, a supervisor must be firm about policy. Each one of us wants to be liked—just like we all fantasize about finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but we won’t. People are different and will view leadership differently. Some will not like the supervisor no matter how hard he tries to please them. When it comes to enforcing rules, however, there is no room to be wishy-washy or needy of popularity. Here is where a strong heart and a firm voice are required.
Managers do not actively seek to suck joy out of the work experience by sticking to their guns. Sometimes, for instance, safety and law and compliance issues are at stake. I understand that people who have never had leadership responsibilities do not always realize how quickly things can get out of hand when little attention is given to certain aspects of a workplace situation; but they do and shockingly so. Yet this is no excuse for the supervisor to micromanage, nag, or reinvent himself as Pharaoh! A good motto might be “Work as you must, play as you can.”
A third duty of the supervisor, albeit subjective, is to not allow himself to be outworked by those he serves. This is not an issue of pride but one of resolve. A good leader calls out of himself acts of perseverance, courage, and good ole stick-to-itiveness, reckoning himself a first responder to any task at hand. The supervisor will not always have the skill and expertise his specialized workforce possesses; but if the job calls for extra duty he should be there offering the necessary support.
His work may be altogether different from what his employees do. He may be an executive who is in meetings and planning sessions every day and rarely seen. Many times his workers may not want him around! Yet the point stands. They should know that he is giving every ounce of effort to what he does just as they do for their job and to him as their leader .
Submission to Authority
Not even in a perfect world would every person be his own boss. Such is a doomed scenario because there can only be a few who give orders, and the rest of us have to take them for the sake of organization. Pride City, as it were, is a place of utter chaos and its mayor, Mr. Bighead, is all of us. So learning how to surrender our position is all-too-important as a leader. It is the paradoxical lesson of becoming nothing to gain everything.
Submission can be hard for men because the ego plays a big role in our self-image. We are accustomed to taking control and giving orders and being perceived in society as those who lead. So it feels slightly out of sorts when control is taken from us and we must comply and become subordinates. The good thing is that most of us have a sound grasp on reality and know how to fall in line. Pride City is just an allegory but some of us have real pride issues and personal situations that make us chafe at authority. If we’re honest, we would acknowledge that those areas must be dealt with before they lead us where we wish not to go.
Those who teach themselves to submit learn the valuable lesson of humility. Many of us cringe at the idea of being humble. After all, media and the commercial marketplace barrage us with notions that people get ahead by being aggressively assertive or underhanded. These are false perceptions that do nothing to undermine the fact that people properly under authority usually become the authority, if not already by influence alone. Let no person fool you about humility, a word more toughly experienced in the heart than we would assume. Humility tends to weed-wack us of our need to be arrogant and overconfident and preeminent and self-absorbed. It shaves our kingly manes to reveal our skinny necks and trains us to be led and receive instruction.
So the workplace is a prime location to learn a lesson that serves more than work alone but also life. In our work we take orders to get things done. Some tasks are small, some are large; some we like, some we don’t like. There are good managers we wish to be around and unrelenting bosses we wish could fall off the end of the earth. To all these duties and powers, we have to submit. (‘Eagerly’ would be pushing it, I know.)
Work rarely comes totally rewarding or thankless. There are things we like about it and things that can always improve, especially when it comes to giving and taking orders. But the benefit of us doing our own work is that it can become a liberating experiment in our own self-development. You may or may not have opportunity for advancement but why let the experience be a total waste? Your time served at your job can become a great precursor for future success if you learn the lesson.
If you are already an authority at your workplace, your understanding of the importance of submission should be concrete. You have authority that has been granted to you by a higher-up authority. Let’s put it another way. Your role doesn’t belong to you, but you are legitimate in it because influence and power to act in a certain way has been placed in your hands.
And still one more way. You are expendable . If submission teaches us anything, it is that true authority is earned—and not by merits alone but in the admiration of the people served. It is a frustrating circumstance when hiring practices become overgrown with nepotism and other injustices that edge out the people who most need work or are deserving of promotion.
The best supervisors and managers are those who have risen to their positions from the ranks of the masses that do the menial and unrewarding tasks. They become the best officials because humility now takes on additional meaning to them. They will now enforce the same rules that they once followed or criticized. They get the surprising lesson that those under authority get authority to lead graciously. Nobody cares for a honcho. Good managers know that true authority is earned and is never a right. It can always be taken away.