Perhaps the founder and CEO of The Lonely Entrepreneur Michael Dermer says it best when he says true leadership is more of an art than a science. And oftentimes, great motivators and exceptional change-makers are created through trial and error, and a consistent, constant dedication to improve. While everyone wants to add “manager” or “director” to their LinkedIn profile, many underestimate the additional job responsibilities that come with the gig.
From conflict-management to keeping everyone on your team on track, there are some tall orders and difficult situations a true leader has to mitigate. Dermer explains the art of leadership is at the crux of an organization and is what makes positive results and outcomes possible. Though it seems simple … it’s far from it.
“If it were, there would be only one book available at Amazon called ‘How to Be a CEO.; What makes it so hard is that you have to balance multiple moving parts,” he explains.
What are these facets? To name a few, these below. With practice, patience and diligence you can handle anything thrown your way. Luckily, experts help you get started with the most difficult areas of management:
Making sense of chaos
Much like a parent, often management is brought in to deal with an issue, a crisis or one big ‘ol mess, according to career coach Judy Panagakos. Perhaps two employees aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, or a client is causing internal debates that aren’t necessary. Even though a leader didn’t create the problem (and likely didn’t have anything to do with it), Panagakos shares they must solve it in a respectful, efficient way.
When you’re presented with this type of situation, she suggests gathering any and all information you can from everyone involved. Then, compare it to past instances that may have happened to determine the cause, effect, and in some cases, to decide if this is reoccurring or not. If so, she says you could consider reframing the team into new roles to remedy the issue.
“This might be done by rearranging workflow or renaming the roles they play to position them as champions for the change needed. Same team, but getting a fresh start off the team’s baseline” she adds.
Address gaps—and problematic employees
No one wants to be criticized, and no one should be in an unproductive way. However, part of the leadership role is to give feedback and make adjustments when necessary. As Panagakos explains, all leaders will have someone — or even a few people — who are not measuring up to the rest of the team’s capability.
Though it isn’t easy to admit you have gaps, it is essential that you address them, fairly and objectively to ensure the continued success of the company. This could mean letting a bad egg go or hiring on help to mentor younger staff members.
“These sorts of problems do not resolve easily nor quickly, but your efforts will set the stage: out of line behavior is noticed, not tolerated, and has consequences. Your team is more important than delaying action for the individual with the problem,” she reminds.
Driving performance beyond vision
Dermer shares for many leaders, vision is easy. And while setting a vision or a goal is an instrumental part of their role, it’s only the first step.
“Getting an organization or a group of people to turn that vision into a plan is a daunting task on its own,” he explains. “Process is what enables you to put ideas into action.”
Maybe you’re launching a new product from your line, presenting a new service for your wheelhouse or pivoting direction. You need to get everyone on your team excited, on the same page and well, working hard.
“To bring this excitement to bear, create a process that brings the product to life. Give the project a name. Create a formal team. Set a weekly meeting. Establish standard reports,” Dermer encourages. “Process sounds dull but it is the enabler of great vision.”
Even though the workplace is an ever-changing, always-evolving concept, there something to be said about consistency and how it enables trust within companies. Not only peer-to-peer but between managers and employees, too. No matter what leadership style you practice, Dermer says providing weekly summaries and keeping dependable meeting schedules will build morale and help everyone stay tracked for success.
“Once per week put out a one-page bulleted summary of the week. This could be about the company as a whole or about your specific piece. Resist the temptation to clutter those around you with constant communications. One page, once per week,” he recommends.
As for meetings? Those are up to you to set — and to keep — depending on the culture of your company and how large or small your team is. “It is empowering to others to know that every Tuesday at 10 a.m. you are going to talk about the marketing plan as opposed to 32 times throughout the week,” he adds.
Giving feedback that makes a difference
Or rather, leaving your mark on outcomes, as Panagakos puts it. Taking an editor’s and a strategic eye to every project and timeline means extra steps on your part, but it will help the team progress.
“Leaders should review the output of the team and take time to endorse the efforts of the group, giving immediate praise to the quality work, giving immediate and clear edits to things that need to be changed, and adding their individual contribution of material if they believe it will improve the finished product,” she explains.
When leaders don’t do this, many employees feel as if they are left without guidance, lack direction and overall, feel as if they aren’t steady within their job. This can lead to high turnover or staff who dread coming into the office.
When you’re super-stoked about an employee and you believe they are going to go above and beyond — and then they fall short — it is normal to be frustrated. Or, when a next-in-charge you can usually depend on seems off, you suddenly have to pick up the slack. It’s easy to let your temper or ego get the best of you, but Dermer says the most impactful leaders know how to take that pause and consider the individual.
“The reality is that you have to learn how to press a different button each time depending on the person and the situation at hand. Learning how to do that can take a lifetime but here is one thing to try,” he explains. “Walk a few minutes in their shoes and your emotional intelligence can grow by leaps and bounds.”
This doesn’t mean you have to become a softie, but rather, that you approach leadership with empathy.
“Leaders cannot show doubt. But at the same time, leaders need to be able to show the people around them that they are always improving. This is an incredibly difficult balance to strike. In striking that balance, never waver in your belief of the greater vision or goal,” he explains. “Embrace the desire to learn and improve and share that with your team while you let them know that whatever it takes, the team will achieve.”