If you take any organizational development or business organization courses you will have likely learned the difference between a manager and a leader. In my first class towards my MBA we learned about this difference and it really helped me take a look at my leaders, both past and present, and identify the leaders vs the managers. It was pretty eye opening! One thing that stuck out that the professor said was “leaders go first” and gave an example of a leader getting up and speaking in front of a room full of scared employees not because they were required to but because it was the right thing to do. It was a scary time in the organization and there was a lot of discomfort and the leader got up and acknowledged the situation. That’s not something easy to do and it’s not something that you necessarily have to do but it shows great leadership. Leaders don’t micro-manage. They guide… they coach… they address issues… but they lead by example.
I have had the incredible privilege of having some amazing leaders to learn from. I have a LONG way to go before I get to their quality of leadership but it’s been a great experience learning from them. Right now my direct boss is the best boss I’ve ever had in my life. That’s not to say my other bosses weren’t amazing but my current boss is seriously the bomb. His leadership style is so fun to watch because he has a way of motivating people and making sure his team knows where we’re going but allows the flexibility for people to provide their impact to help guide that direction if necessary. And I think that in great part is due to his amazing boss, George, who I have wanted to work for for many years!
I started working with George back in 2005 and at first I wasn’t sure what to think. (OK… I thought he was crazy) He was very pushy and really butted heads with technology, where I work. He was leading our call center and he would make the most ridiculous and out there requests I’d ever heard. He would always listen to our feedback and if a request was truly no do-able he always accepted that and moved on but he’d push us to think outside the box and try to come up with ways to make things work. And one day I asked him if he just liked to fight… it seemed like he just wanted to challenge us for the sake of challenging us. And the conversation that followed will stick with me forever. He conveyed that his main responsibility was making sure the call center had the best possible tools to do their jobs. And if he was responsible for doing that didn’t he have the responsibility to always ask if things could be better? It wasn’t at all that he liked to argue (though I still think he loves it!) but that he wanted to create the best environment possible for his team, which is the front line of our organization. What could be more important than that?! After he explained that to me something clicked and from then on whenever someone would come to us with a crazy request, instead of getting frustrated I would try to think about it from the requester’s perspective. We still have to say no a lot but that’s OK- the important thing is to consider all possibilities and try to think outside the box to make things happen within reason. At that moment I knew I wanted to work for him… who wouldn’t want a leader that fought that hard for their team?!
In a very fortunate turn of events he kept getting promoted (obviously he’s incredible) and eventually he was promoted over technology. I am grateful every single day to have these two incredible leaders over me helping me be a better technologist and guiding our organization in a direction I can believe in. What kinds of leaders do you have around you? Even if your direct leader isn’t the best do you have other leaders in your organization that you can have mentor you? Not only are my two direct leaders the best but we have another leader in technology that reports up to George that is amazing to watch as well. And while I don’t report up to him I get to watch him in action all the time and work closely with him on tons of projects. I’m surrounded by greatness! Do you have a team under you? How are your leadership skills? What are the skills you see in great leaders that you’d like to emulate?