By ANTHONY T. GITONGA
Has the thought of throwing in the towel crossed your mind in light of the leadership challenges you face? Do you have specific areas of your managerial role that you struggle with? Relax. You are not alone. Every manager has his or her own battles. Learning to win more of these battles will place you at the top of every great leader’s choice.
In my work with managers I have seen their struggles arising from various sources. They might include leading others, being led, relationships with peers, and their own self-challenges. While some of the struggle we face as managers can be attributed to our relationships with others the solutions to most of them lies with us. We can change and grow. That is our choice. As you go through the following 10 struggles consider your choices and make your growth as a managerial leader a priority.
- Sense of personal insecurity
Nothing outside of us can give us personal security. Nothing we do or have can compensate for lack of personal security. At the core of managerial struggle is an unclear sense of personal identity. Spend time knowing and accepting who you are. It’s the first step to your unique contribution. Seek improvement based on what you are, not what you are not.
- Unclear direction or lack of it
In my seminars on How to Grow as a Leader I ask participants to share their growth plans. There are more blank stares than the enthusiasm to share about their plans. Beyond getting to the helm of the organisation, many managers are devoid of a clear direction of what they want to be. The clarity of direction, defined by an appreciation of the manager’s life-purpose, fuels the best growth plans.
- Driven by activity not priority
Do you use to-do-lists to manage your day? Are those lists getting longer and longer the higher you rise? It is time to abandon the to-do-list struggle and get more productive. Begin your week with a list of priorities. Priorities are those most important things you have to do that don’t necessarily cry out for attention. Mark those in your calendar and maintain some undivided focus on them.
- Respect only commanded by title
“I thought my team would respect me upon being promoted as a senior manager.” One manager told me in a coaching session adding, “I feel nobody respects me around here.” Many managers are entrapped in this struggle. Truth be told, respect is never given to any leader, it is earned. You earn it by living according to the standards you have set for yourself, by trusting others, and by showing respect to them.
- Failure to model accountability
One of the greatest challenges managers face today is execution. The gap between strategy and the results on the ground is increasingly large. Managers think of this as an incompetence gap. But throwing more money to training, while that may develop competency, does not solve the problem. Great managers hold themselves and others accountable for results. They devise scoreboards to measure what they want. They don’t leave results to chance and they never shy away in dealing with those who will not be accountable.
- Playing political games
Leading up is much more than pleasing your manager by playing over and over again what they want to hear! Political games can get you through the door, but won’t keep you objectively productive. Progress in any endeavour is about-facing brutal facts and not getting fixated on who will like you or hate you. I’d rather be respected than liked. You may pad up the numbers to make the board happy, but for how long will you keep doing it?
- You don’t know my boss
No I don’t and am not particularly interested in knowing them either. Too many managers struggle with a boss who stifles their growth in the organisation. Conversations are rife with such kind of bosses. Unless you are married to one, leave! But before you do ask yourself the question what have you done to confront the behaviour in this boss that you don’t like. If you are pushed down it means you have potential enough for a better manager to notice you.
- The comparison game
We have grown up in a world that ranks us in everything. We have perfected the art of comparing ourselves to others. The more we do, the more we role-play and become copies of those we compare ourselves to. Spare yourself the agony. Whoever you compare yourself to they will be better than you in a certain aspect. If you base your development plans on those comparisons you will have a mountain of things to catch up in. As yourself, “What can you be the best in the world at?” Build your competitive edge around your uniqueness not around your competitor.
- If only I had better people
At a senior management meeting, I had a manager rant about how his staff are no good. The rant rubbed me off on an edge that got me to ask him, “If these people are so poor at what they do, why did you hire them.” You might like the achievers from your competitors. Before you hire them consider their abilities and the environment they operate in. Even the best seeds perform dismally in poor condition.
- You are not the centre of the universe
Over time we develop a false sense of self-importance. When we do our days are numbered in leadership. No productive worker wants to be a round such a self-absorbed manager. Break the cycle. It is not about you! It’s about the mission of the organisation. And guess what, you are a dispensable part of it. Do our part and let others do theirs. Share the credit.
Which of these struggles pin you down most of the time? Think of all the actions you can take to win the battle. Mentors, coaches, and resources might be of great help in the journey of change. But key among the drivers of change you might have is yourself. How committed are you to becoming a better manager?