How to Help Managers Who Lack Leadership in Your Organization

No one wants to work at an organization lacking leadership, especially for a long time.  Despite not wanting to be in this situation, most people will stay regardless. Whether it’s the golden handcuffs or convincing our brains that things will change; something keeps us in less than ideal leadership situations.  

recent study found that 77% of organizations report that leadership is lacking, confirming that most professionals previously settled for average leadership. Luckily, that is starting to change. 

Take Jess, a former accounting manager at a global technology company, as an example. For two years, she worked under a fantastic leader who worked hard to elevate those on his team.  When he left for a big promotion at a different company, Jess got a new manager.

It didn’t take long to figure out that her new manager had a lot of industry experience but wasn’t a leader.  She barked orders, put her own needs ahead of the team, and blamed others when things didn’t go well.  

After multiple unsuccessful attempts from Jess and others to help her new manager change, she decided to take recruiters’ calls.  In just a few weeks, she accepted a new position at a different company for nearly an identical salary.  Not only was Jess’ decision proof that modern professionals aren’t tolerating bad leadership anymore, but it also reminds us of a critical truth about organizational leadership. 

Every organization has managers, not every organization has leaders

Being a manager is a position, but being a leader is a decision.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Since being a leader is a decision, it probably has you asking an essential question about the topic, are leaders born or made?  I shared some ideas in a recent interview:

To summarize, leaders are both born and made, but they are primarily made through hard work by individuals and their organizations, encouraging their growth and development. If an organization is going to reach its potential, it rests on the leadership of its people. 

If an organization is going to reach its potential, it rests on the leadership of its people.

Not only do the best organization understand this, they know it’s not about just hiring great leaders but building them.  Here are a few ideas to empower your managers to be high performing leaders:

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1. Promote People With a Heart for Leadership

The most common retention technique organizations use is to promote people to managerial positions. Most do this without considering one’s heart for leadership or the new skills needed to be developed to be successful in their new role.

If more organizations would promote people with a heart for leadership, engagement would skyrocket.  

The simplest and most effective way to empower managers to be high-performing leaders is to promote the right people to leadership positions.  I wish there were a silver bullet to evaluate one’s heart for leadership, but unfortunately, there is not. Before promoting someone or giving them direct reports, a simple technique is to evaluate any previous behavior where they have proactively served others.  

2. Provide Them a Common Definition of Leadership

Having had the opportunity to work with hundreds of Executives and HR leaders to help develop their managers into leaders, most companies haven’t defined what it means to be a leader in their particular organization.  

They spend countless hours defining their mission, vision, and values (which is essential), but they stop at explaining what it means to be a leader.  When I talk about this with leadership teams, the most common excuse I get is, “we have so many experienced leaders at the organization; we don’t need to define it.  

It’s never too late to define something meaningful because the future hasn’t yet happened. 

To this I say, it’s never too late to define something meaningful because the future hasn’t yet happened. Maybe there is an unwritten definition about what it means to be a leader in your organization; but, I would prefer having it defined and communicated to increase the odds that future leaders buy into it.

3. Supply Them the Mirror for Self-Awareness

Improving in any skill, leadership included, requires a level of self-awareness that opens the heart and mind to do some things differently. A common practice for officers in the Marines is to put together what they refer to as an “Iron Council.” 

This group consists of six direct reports and peers of an officer.  A few times a year, the Iron Council meets with their officer in a group setting to provide feedback about his or her performance. This isn’t meant to air petty grievances but rather to provide a constructive place to improve.  

Something unique happens after these Iron Council meetings.  While feedback can be tough to hear, officers finds themselves on a mission to grow and get better.  This is essential because you can’t change what you don’t know. 

You can’t change what you don’t know

If you are a leader or you help develop leaders in your organization, be sure you have tools like 360 leadership assessment to supply the mirror for self-awareness. 

4. Give Them the Digital Tools to Lead

No one likes people who make excuses, but leading a fully remote or hybrid team is challenging.  While most leaders have gotten used to remote work because of the pandemic it doesn’t mean leadership is easier.  My experience has been that the sooner you give managers the tools to lead, the slower the excuses become. 

The sooner you have the tools, the slower the excuses become

While no tool is a silver bullet, tools like Peoplebox exist for these reasons.

5. Provide Them Coaching and Development

This one might come across as self-serving because of my industry, but the best athletes in the world have coaches, shouldn’t your leaders? 

Developing leadership skills is challenging. So providing team members a safe place to mold and grow their skills is essential. Since there isn’t only one perfect method to help leaders grow and develop, each organization has to come up with a sustainable and scalable way to make it happen in their organization.  

Closing

It would be fantastic if “empowering managers to be leaders” were as easy as turning on a light switch. But when you think about all the work, effort, and dedication it took and continues to take for that light switch to turn on the lights, it proves there is nothing easy about it.  

If you are have taken it upon yourself to become a better leader, thank you. If you are in Human resources or HR and have dedicated your career to helping other professionals develop, thank you. If you are a professional coach who helps other people see their blind spots, thank you. If you are a leader who works relentlessly to help your people grow and develop, thank you.

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John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and VP of Thought Leadership at Peoplebox. He was namLinkedIn’sLinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.