Bosses who are chronically impatient may not like to know that ‘being impatient may look dynamic but it rarely has a positive outcome,’ as writes Michael Heath in ‘Leadership Secrets’ (www.harpercollins.co.in). In fact, impatience often leads to misunderstanding, rework and repair, adds Heath.
After all, we are taking people not into the next hour, day, week or even month, he reasons. “We’re leading them to a distant place. A place that lies over the known horizon.”
Stating that patience is required for dealing with people, politics, and perspective, the author reminds that people are not immovable in their thinking. “But they have to feel that they have control over the decision to change. When pressure is applied they might comply. But they will not be persuaded.”
The leader needs to realise that winning people over to his or her cause may take time. Thinking that you will just force it through anyway creates instant enemies, instructs Heath. “With people, time is a friend – not an enemy.”
As for politics, which is present in any organisation, the author’s counsel to leaders is to read the politics and wait patiently for the right time to move. And a sense of perspective helps leaders in choosing the conflicts and opportunities wisely.
Leaders and managers
‘Lead but don’t forget to manage,’ is another insight in the book. “You manage things; you lead people,” reads a quote of Grace Murray Hopper, aptly cited by the author. He also refers to the wisdom of Abraham Zaleznik – that the role of a leader is like an artist, scientist, and creative thinker as opposed to a manager.
“Managers live in – and maintain – the system, the detail of working life. The small stuff. They’re responsible for the ship’s boilers. They make sure the turbines are working. See to it that the crew’s happy and that courses are followed. But the leader decides the course. They look at the map and place their finger on where the ship is going.”
Debunking the common perception that ‘leadership is sexy and management is dull,’ Heath avers that in your current job, both roles may be expected of you, because the company wants you to decide your team’s direction, while also requiring you to ensure that the team is doing the detail.
A section devoted to change has a chapter titled, ‘maintain momentum,’ where the author emphasises the need for keeping motivation high during any change process. A simple tip that he offers is to look for ‘quick wins’ which let people know the process is working. “Not only will it fire up the evangelical ‘flag-carriers’ that you may have, it will send positive messages of success to critics of the initiative. When you develop your initial plans, it’s often shrewd to build in these short-term goals. Every ‘hit’ fills up your employees’ tanks with more motivational fuel.”
To know what stage your change process has reached, ‘Watch the ball,’ the author advises. “What is it that makes a great tennis or squash player? Is it how they hit the ball?” he asks. “No, it is how they pick up the flight of the ball early and move to the best position to hit it. The ‘winning shot’ begins with the early visual contact they made with the ball.”
So too is accurate feedback, analogises Heath. It is about getting the important information you need as far ahead as possible, he observes. “Not when the ball has connected with your racquet. When this happens you’re forced to react to events. Pick up the flight of the ball early and then you have choices.”