Leadership and Management
How Do We Best Achieve Managerial Breadth?
For many decades in organization life, managers have been mainly developed by deepening their skills in a functional way before asking them to take on a broader role. This process of building functional depth (before engaging in broader skills) may take many years. Entry level accountants, engineers, software programmers, lawyers, nurses, trainers, salespeople and many others therefore typically start on the bottom rung of the ladder and then deepen their experience over the years, moving up through what is often called a “technical ladder”.
Some individuals spend their whole careers getting deeper and deeper experience in their chosen functional area or discipline, perhaps starting as a junior engineer and ending a career as a senior engineer (and they are quite happy about this). However, many others assume a little or even a lot of management responsibility at some point (that takes them beyond their strictly functional expertise). In some cases these individuals have to evolve a number of much broader skills such as staff planning, team development, financial management, effective procurement and even conflict resolution skills, for example. Unfortunately, individuals with considerable functional depth are often not ready to take on these challenges and may be just “thrown in at the deep end” by their wider organization to learn as quickly as they can. A better approach is to prepare them for these broader challenges and to do so we should ideally get these individuals to focus on 5 key areas as follows:
It is extremely difficult to manage others until you can manage yourself. Managing yourself is therefore about a range of skills including Assertiveness, Emotional Intelligence, Self-esteem, Learning Styles, Career Management, Personal/Time Effectiveness, Psychology and Stress/pressure control. As we can readily determine by mastering skills and gaining knowledge in these areas, an individual gives him or herself the solid foundation upon which to start to manage other areas.
Once we have mastered how best to manage ourselves, there are a range of management activities that need to be appreciated including Business writing, Cost Control, Customer Service, Diversity, Goals/Objective setting, Problem-Solving/Decision-Making, Quality/Total Quality and Recruitment/Selection. All of these topic areas represent specialist areas of knowledge about which every leader should know at least a little in order to be successful.
One of the prime tasks of any leader is to communicate well with others but to do this effectively an individual has to appreciate a range of information handling skills and methods including Communication skills, Complaint Handling, Feedback Giving/Taking, Influencing others, Listening, Negotiating, People Networking and Presenting to others. Most people have some experience in many of these topics but they often need to be much deeper when managing others.
Perhaps this is the most difficult and rewarding aspect of being a leader but one that most individuals struggle with most because there is so much to learn about topics such as Climate/Culture/Values determination, Coaching/Mentoring, Generational Leadership, Leadership/Management skills, Motivation and Empowerment, Performance Management, Teams and Teamwork, and Training others. Every one of these areas usually represents a large body of knowledge and skills and needs time and commitment to master.
Every organization faces both small and large-scale change on a regular basis and to tackle it well needs a reasonable understanding of subject areas such as Business Ethics, Change Management skills, Conflict Resolution, Creativity/Innovation, Critical Thinking, Process improvement, Risk Management and Sustainability. Although all of these topics are not all about change directly, they are often about what occurs when change happens or offers knowledge and approaches to tackling it when it does.
A key part of every leader’s job role is to manage the assets and resources that are under their control or influence. This means that every leader needs a basic appreciation of a number of functional areas such as Assets/Operations, Entrepreneurship, Finance/Cash-flows, I.T. /Technology, Health and Safety, Projects/Meetings, Sales and Marketing, and Strategic Planning. By building knowledge and skills in all of these areas, individuals will be able to both ask better questions and guide others more effectively.
Most people in the workplace gain job or functional “depth” of experience early in their career. However, if individuals aspire to lead, then managerial “breadth” needs to be developed. All six of the above categories provide a route map for this broadening to take place and for a person to become a well-rounded leader over time.