People use the terms "manager" and "leader" interchangeably, but the skills and focus of a great manager are quite different than those of a great leader. While managers may be functional specialists, leaders are generalists. Whereas managers are tacticians and problem solvers, leaders are strategists and agenda setters. This disparity in the focus between the two roles means the transition from a management role to a leadership role can be difficult. Consequently, companies commit billions of dollars a year to train their leaders to be strategists and great communicators, decision makers and crisis managers.
People are an organization’s most important asset. But in some companies, it seems that technology is better at forming the connections between personnel that are necessary to accomplish a company’s vision than are the leaders of those companies. This is problematic because business is about accomplishing financial and operational goals. For team members to work toward goals, leaders must clearly state them. Consequently, productive work environments depend on open lines of communication and leaders who are willing and able to convey central ideas to staff members and other partners in a transparent, motivating and confident fashion. Classes that enhance a leader’s ability to communicate include those that focus on negotiating skills, communicating with tact and diplomacy, and conflict management.
It’s unthinkable for a company to achieve success without a strategy because companies and their employees aren’t centered around materials and equipment, but rather around ideas. At the heart of every marketing campaign, groundbreaking for a new plant, employee policy or functional procedure is a strategy developed and communicated by company leaders. A company’s strategic direction establishes an employee’s relevance and enables him to focus his work around a central idea. An awareness of this central direction enables employees to collaborate to accomplish specific goals. It's essential, therefore, that leaders be able to develop a well-defined strategy that reflects their vision of a company’s future and that mirrors their organization’s values. Strategic thinking can be improved by the study of topics such as benchmarking, SWOT analysis and change management.
If leaders lack the ability or confidence to make decisions, employees won’t know how to address weaknesses or contribute to the company’s pursuit of opportunities. For this reason, a leader must be action-oriented and a good decision maker to be effective. Only then will employees trust your leadership, be confident in the path you choose and remain inspired by your decisions for the long term. Through training, leaders can learn how good decisions are made and how to avoid bad decisions. They can also learn the intuitive and rational aspects of the decision-making process.
Having a good idea and bringing it to fruition regardless of the crises that may occur on a daily basis is an important part of being a leader. Rather than panic when they see a few red lights blinking, good leaders make adjustments and attempt to remain on course even when stress levels are high. As John Baldoni writes in the article, “How a Good Leader Reacts to Crisis,” good leaders must respond to a crisis by imposing order, identifying issues, committing the appropriate resources to the task at hand and providing direction for an orderly response. A leader improves his crisis management skills through training that pertains to crisis communication, crisis management teams and decision making during a crisis.