The Average Leader

Recently I worked with a group of new supervisors as they embarked on their leadership quest.

Say what you will about the vanishing middle manager role, there's plenty of demand for the first-line role, whether called coach, supervisor, team leader, etc. People look to them for support.

Everyone wants to know the keys to supervision – the secrets to being respected and effective. While much of this is technical competence, a significant amount is social skills: the ability to engage people in common cause.

Here then an initial view of what it takes to make a difference.

What & How

Achievement in any role, management or otherwise is important. Really important. Results are 80% of the end measure.

What we do counts, but how we do it counts too.

That last 20% is really important as results achieved through browbeating, intimidation etc only lead to distress and ultimately failed culture.

It won't last.

“How” we get results matters.

Accessibility Wins

Contrary to myth the first line supervisor doesn't have to have all the answers: the team will figure most things out. The leader has to be engaged though to ensure the team asks the right questions.

The difference in team performance between the supervisor who is available and circulating – immersing themselves in the flow – and the absent leadership model is staggering.

The message is simple: if you aspire to lead, lead. People will accept mistakes – they won't accept absenteeism on the job.

Stay plugged in.

Time is on Your Side

New leaders often place inordinate stress on themselves to deliver immediate answers. If you can do so while being mostly right go ahead: speed counts.

Yet, whenever working with people issues, eg., coaching, counseling, conflict, remember this: its better to be one step too slow than one step too fast.

People are complex: addressing their concerns effectively takes time. There's no need to rush to judgment simply to provide “an” answer. Take the time to sort through things before rendering snap judgements.

Being wrong more quickly than the next person is not a success model.

Invest the time you need.

Listening Matters

Active listening is the single biggest differentiator in first line leaders. Some Western cultures are biased towards “pushing” information: telling people things and preparing rebuttals et al even as others speak.

How refreshing it is then to encounter someone who really listens.

This skill is overlooked in many management models, yet is can be learned and makes a significant difference in team commitment thus performance. You can choose to become a better listener. Today.

In plain English, improved listening gives you an edge.


All of these add value whatever your role is yet the difference in effectiveness of first line managers is remarkable when these factors are evident.

Caring about how we get results through being available, patient and listening effectively marks a significant difference between the average and select supervisor in getting those results.

And don't kid yourself: no one wants to work for an average leader.

Are you listening?



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