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In today's business atmosphere, it is important to have good leadership skills to be a successful manager. Contrary to popular belief, a good manager is not necessarily a good leader. In this section, we shall define each, noting the differences in essential skills. We will also explore the characteristics most commonly found in successful leaders, such as confidence, optimism, and organization, to name but a few. Evaluating your personal traits will enable you to pin point your strengths and weaknesses. If you are lacking in certain areas, these valuable skills can often be learned. Your individual skills will serve as the building blocks for developing an effective style of management.
You probably want to know what essential skills you need to become a good manager. First of all, you must decide whether you want to be a good manager or a good leader. Although many people use the terms manager and leader interchangeably, there is a difference. Managers typically use policies and procedures, combined with deadlines, incentives, and discipline, to "push" employees to achieve goals. Leaders, on the other hand, provide a vision which inspires and challenges employees to use their own abilities, knowledge, and experience to achieve goals. Smart managers have become successful leaders, by combining leadership skills with the fundamental characteristics of a manager.
Let's begin by listing the most common characteristics of a manager, or in small businesses, the owner.
GOOD MANAGERS ARE:
Their education, natural abilities, and/or experience, provide the knowledge needed to perform management duties and responsibilities.
They are stable, hard working people, who are able to handle the stress and risk associated with managing and/or owning a business.
They have the determination and drive to achieve goals, often working long hours to do so.
They are quick thinkers, who are able to provide others with direction and answers, especially in pressure situations.
These fundamental qualities provide a solid foundation for your leadership development. Your strength as a leader will come from your ability to interact with people. Gaining the trust and respect of your employees is crucial, if you want them to follow and support you. Your personality and behaviour can have a significant effect on the people you lead. Almost without exception, successful people have attitudes, positive ones! A positive attitude can smooth the road that leads to your success. Avoid negativity, as it is the root of many business failures.
Let's examine the positive characteristics of a good leader and briefly outline their importance.
GOOD LEADERS ARE:
Leaders will have a positive attitude and a high degree of confidence in the objectives they are trying to accomplish. If employees are to be productive under the guidance of a leader, the leader must show confidence in the company's ability to achieve its goals, regardless of the challenges it may face in the future.
Leaders have the ability to transfer their enthusiasm for a promising future to their team members, no matter what obstacles or challenges may arise. It is doubtful that employees will look positively on each milestone the company passes, if their leader does not. Leaders should set a good example, so that employees can follow their lead.
Leaders use their energy and vision to inspire people. They help develop employees to their maximum potential by providing them with challenges. A leader who is excited about tackling goals generates excitement among employees, creating a positive work environment and increased production.
Leaders care about the welfare of their staff, offering assistance in times of need. They encourage people to actively participate in decision making, using their knowledge and experience to solve problems. If a leader is supportive and the lines of communication are open, employees will be more willing to share their ideas and suggestions.
Leaders have integrity and treat others with respect. Good leaders are honest and fair in their relations with customers, employees, and the public. They get a sense of pride from providing their customers with exceptional products and service. Before, your team members put their faith in you as a leader, they must first deem you trustworthy.
Leaders step away from the crowd, to look at things from a new and innovative perspective. They capitalize on opportunities, which others have overlooked. Their ingenuity allows them to develop flexible solutions which can be modified, in changing circumstances. A creative leader can stir people's imaginations, encouraging them to be more inventive and resourceful.
Good leaders are prepared. They plan and prioritize business activities using schedules, and establish deadlines to accomplish goals. Their work areas are generally neat and tidy, which enables them to locate information quickly. After all, how can you expect to lead a team with a clear vision of goals and objectives, if you don't even have a clear vision of the top of your desk.
The most valuable quality you can possess is the ability to believe in yourself. Many of the skills, which you need to make your business a success, stem from this belief. Suppose, Bill Gates (Microsoft Corporation) seemed unsure of Microsoft's ability to "control" the software industry. Do you think his employees and shareholders would have been confident in the company's ability to succeed? Probably not! Bill Gates believed in himself, his employees, and the abilities of everyone in the company to successfully complete tasks. His beliefs created a positive environment and increased the confidence his employees had in themselves and their own ability. As a result, Bill Gates is now the richest man in North America.
ASSESSING YOUR SKILLS
The best means of determining your strengths and weaknesses is to assess your skills. There are several ways to do this. One method involves making a list of your individual qualities, then rating each one as either being positive or negative. It may also be useful to compare your list to the list of positive characteristics of a good leader, provided above, to look for similarities. Another method is to fill out a questionnaire, such as the one provided below.
|Test Your Skills
Answer each question below with either YES, SOMETIMES, NO
|Do you speak up and voice your opinions?|
|After reviewing the options, can you make a decision and stick to it ?|
|Can you get your point across to others, without raising your voice ?|
|Are you often the one to change the topic or direction of a conversation ?|
|Do you take advice from others who are more knowledgeable than yourself ?|
|Do you adapt well to change ?|
|During conversations, do you listen to others and comment on their ideas ?|
|Do you make eye contact with people, when you speak to them ?|
|Do you enjoy the competitive side of games and sports ?|
|Do you excel under the pressure of a deadline ?|
|Do you work well independently, without being distracted ?|
|Can you sleep at night knowing that you owe money to people ?|
|Do you view mistakes as an important part of the learning process ?|
|Do you remain calm and cool in stressful situations ?|
|Do you enjoy solving puzzles and riddles ?|
|Are you driven to finish a project, even after experiencing a major set back ?|
|Do you currently use a budget to manage your personal bills and income ?|
|Do others seek your advice, even if you are not the one in charge ?|
|Do you feel the need to strive for perfection ?|
|Would you have enough confidence in your idea to risk losing everything ?|
|Do you serve on the executive of an organization or committee ?|
|Do you feel compelled to work evenings and weekends to complete a project ?|
|Do you try to get others to see things from your point of view ?|
|When asked a question, do you suggest at least two possible solutions ?|
|Do you enjoy meeting new people ?|
To determine your score: give yourself two points for every "Yes", one point for every "Sometimes", and zero points for every "No". Add your points together from each column to get your total score.
IF YOU SCORED:
If you feel that you are lacking essential skills, it would be a good idea to develop them before starting your venture. Honing your skills will be the furthest thing from your mind, when you are busy running your business. There are a number of options open to you, for developing leadership skills. Self improvement and leadership seminars can be interesting and informative. There are books, cd's, dvd's and videos which you can review at home in your spare time. Colleagues in the industry may also provide you with some helpful tips. Choose the method which makes it convenient and comfortable for you to learn.
Keep in mind that the world of business is rapidly progressing, so regardless of how good your skills are now, there will always be more to learn. These skills will play an important role in the formation of your management style. Your willingness to improve and update your skills on a regular basis will allow you to overcome the new challenges of business.