Evolution: From Manager to Leader

Managers don’t wake up on a Monday morning and become leaders. It’s an evolutionary process.

While some leadership qualities may be inherent within an individual, others can be learned.
Those who aren’t natural-born leaders will need time to develop leadership skills and techniques to transform from order-givers to true leaders. They also need time to try their newly acquired skills in the real world to gauge their effectiveness.

The leader-to-manger process can be broken down into six stages:

Stage 1: Begin asking questions along with giving direction. A budding leader can’t simply walk into a conference room and tell employees to figure things out, especially if the employees are accustomed to working in a do-as-you’re-told environment. By asking employees questions about their solutions to challenges while easing out of the dictatorial managerial role, the transition is easier for everyone.

Stage 2: After asking initial questions, listen to the responses from the team and ask more questions. This is a feedback and analysis stage. The manager-leader should ask initial questions, reflect on the answers the questions generate and then ask follow-up questions.

Stage 3: Act upon a small idea from the group. This is the manager’s first real step into the role of leadership. Allow the group to try an idea of its own. Provide the resources that the team needs and empower team members to test the results. Then listen to the group’s analysis.

Stage 4: Continue the ongoing question-answer cycle. As the process evolves, actionable ideas become the rule and not the exception in delivering business results.

Stage 5: Create “think time” to formally focus on the group’s creative ideas. Measure the results in both quantitative — time, money and production numbers — and qualitative — value, quality and social dynamics changes — terms.

Stage 6: Tell the group’s stories. Collect success and failure stories and assess what lessons can be learned from both. Share the findings with the team. Why was the team successful? Why did a project not turn out as planned? In science, there are no failed experiments — only data gathered that supports or casts doubt upon a hypothesis. Ask more questions and return to stage 3.

-Brady Mick