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How to lead like a boss

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
02 October 2021   |   2:24 am
It’s surprising to see just how many people get to the much-coveted position of leading a team without really having a clue about leadership.

It’s surprising to see just how many people get to the much-coveted position of leading a team without really having a clue about leadership. Often, people barely manage other, let alone showcase leadership qualities. Looking back over almost two decades of working for a range of people from the motivational to the miserable, I’ve had a fairly good idea of what makes a good boss. As a manager too, I’ve made mistakes, fallen short, mismanaged people and I hope I’ve learned how not to do things. To sum it up, I there are really a few key skills to ace being a leader. I’m not suggesting you skip on that management course you’ve been wanting to do and just take my advice instead – but for what it’s worth, here’s my two pence based on two decades of experience.

Share the vision
Many CEOs just throw directives at their teams without really sharing the vision and the dream. It is much easier to motivate people to perform at their best in the job that they do if they can see the bigger picture and the part they play in the overall operations and how what they do impacts on the rest.

Do not micro-manage
I’ve worked with many micro-managers in the span of the last 20 years. As a strong-willed, creative-thinking, independent-minded person I can’t begin to tell you how suffocating it is to be micro-managed. Of course, holding someone’s hand as they navigate a new role or experience a new industry is sensible, but do not take their pen away and dot the Is and cross the Ts for them. A good leader is almost like cycling instructor. Hold on to the pannier when they need a bit support, but as they gain in confidence, just let go.

Don’t try to be their friend
You are not in the office to befriend those you work with or those who report into you. Yes, it is good to have amicable relationships with your reports but equally it is good to have boundaries in place.

Focus on things that matter
Don’t be that manager who’s raising an eyebrow when your report walks in through the door five minutes late or requests to work from home for a week while they are tending to a sick. Of course, if work comes second to whatever else is going on in their personal lives, address the issue, but if the employee is performing well and a five minute occasional delay or a few days of working from home doesn’t impact on their productivity or performance, then let these go.

Be a coach
Don’t tell them how it’s done; show them how it’s done. On a management course I went on a couple of years ago it struck me as odd to hear you can’t be a mentor-manager but you can be a coach. Then the course facilitator explained that a mentor/mentee relationship often involved the mentee confiding about their challenges and a report may not feel comfortable confiding in a manager. However, being a coach doesn’t require you to be a confidant but you can still urge, motivate and cheerlead them on to greatness.

Be human
18 months of remote work – for many of us in any case! – has meant we’ve all been able to bring our whole selves to work, albeit on a laptop screen, from the colour coordinated books on the shelves to kids and pets, and sometimes husbands wandering into Teams frames much to the amusement of colleagues. We’ve told each other we need to nip to the bathroom or get another cup of coffee, or tend to a crying toddler, we’ve learned what partners, home decors and our colleagues without make up or office attire look like. There is no need to lose that human touch, which also goes for emotional intelligence. Try and read the room, or the expression on a stressed colleague’s face. Without giving up being professional, try to also be human.

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