Managing and leading are similar, but don’t be confused – they’re different. It’s helpful to look at the definitions for each and the synonyms to offer more insight. A manager administers, controls and supervises while a leader provides guidance, direction and leads. Still a little murky?
The differences begin to emerge, especially when you add that a leader is involved in establishing a clear vision and sharing the vision with others so they follow willingly. They provide information, knowledge and methods needed to realize the vision while coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders. Leaders step up in times of crisis and are able to think and act creatively in difficult situations.
A manager is a key position. It’s critical. But leadership – whether you manage others or support their efforts — is especially important in times of stress. There is a lot to say about leadership and being a better leader, but I will leave that for another time. What’s critical now is one aspect of leadership that’s essential in times of stress and adversity: communication.
There are a few things you really have to focus on.
Communication is critical most of the time, but especially during the harder or more stressful times. Of course, maybe you’d rather not be talking but you have to. Not just through newsletters and emails; they are taken for granted, even discounted. Consider a weekly meeting or a weekly call if everyone is not in the same location. You want to handle their issues. Address the good, bad and ugly. Make sure you communicate the positive and what actions you are taking, or better yet, the actions your whole team is taking to turn adversity into an opportunity. It’s there!
It is also the time to get up, get out more and see what’s happening. You don’t really know all the issues until you make yourself visible to all the troops. Plus, your team doesn’t want to think you are hiding behind your desk. You may not be – but more will think that than you care to know. You also need to address the issues or challenges first hand. Be in the thick of things and help find a solution. This can be a fun time, in a way, if you get out and lead.
It could be the smallest of issues that cause the greatest amount of trouble or angst. I guess you might think the big things get in the way, and they do and they have to be managed well. Those are expected and you are probably addressing them. Maybe not as well as you should and you have to take an honest look at that. But, it is the little things that you don’t pay attention to that can bite you.
In many situations it is the little things that make a difference. Pay attention to these. They are probably easy to resolve, but they are like sand in the shoe, they can really annoy and get in the way.
You can use tougher times to rally your employees and strengthen the team. Everyone wants to know there is hope. A brighter day is possible. Leaders help light the path – they show the way.
No matter how many times you do it, there is always surprise at the power of the collective effort of people coming together to meet a challenge or overcome an obstacle. The good news is in most situations others are facing the same external forces. Those that are more focused and together in their efforts have a chance to be successful as others are fumbling to find their way. If the problem is internal or more of your own making, who better to address the issue? Either way, you and your team can overcome it if you come together and make the decisions that have to be made.
Being intentional with these leadership practices will contribute to a healthier, stronger, more nimble team as you confront even the most challenging times.