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8 important lessons and strategies for managers who are also leaders

Managers deal in processes, schedules and business strategies; leaders are responsible for creating a vision and inspiring their followers to, well… follow them there. More often than not, all these elements are combined into one individual, especially today with higher expectations and a faster pace than ever. While this helps focus and centralize initiatives, it also makes conducting business in a crisis particularly difficult, even more so during times of crisis, as so much pressure is placed on one person.

Vietjet, a low cost airline in Vietnam, surpassed all expectations for 2020 by finishing the year with $3 million in profits. Let’s not forget that this is during the Covid-19 pandemic, with air travel plummeting to levels not seen for 60+ years. How was this possible? Well, it was due in large part to the smart management and leadership of Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, who shouldered all that pressure well, taking decisive action early on with confidence and stability, despite all the uncertainties.

Neither management nor leadership is easy. However, there are a number of strategies you can practice and employ that will make you a better manager and leader in and out of a crisis:

1. Build a strong team
Of course, much of your success depends on surrounding yourself with the right people. If you want to go far as a leader and manager, you need a team of individuals that are inherently motivated, engaged and determined to succeed. You certainly have a role to play in enabling and supporting these traits, but you’ll be in for a rough ride if they aren’t present to begin with.

That means knowing what you’re looking for already in the recruitment phase. While conducting recruitment properly is a subject for another time, suffice it to say you need a process that finds people you know you can both lead and manage successfully.

2. Make decisions, set the strategy
Managers sometimes have to make difficult decisions and compromises under pressure. Moreover, it’s also important to be clear, transparent and confident in both your decisions and strategies. Your team will find many more ways to contribute when they understand the reasons behind your actions and the direction you set for them.

To that end, it’s important to make decisions you yourself feel confident in and are prepared to commit to for some time, giving everyone, including yourself, the opportunity to adjust and see it through before changing things up again. This creates a sense of reliable stability your team will thank you for.

3. Ask, don’t tell (and definitely don’t yell)
Neither management nor leadership is about power, so don’t wield it over your subordinates. Even if your position allows you to give them orders you expect to be followed, be careful when and how you do so. Empowering yourself in this way disempowers your team, leading to frustration and diminished motivation.

But this point isn’t just about being polite and treating others as equals, it’s also about pushing your team forward. When someone approaches you with a problem, don’t tell them what the solution is, even if you think you know it. Instead, ask them what they think about it. This practice will build a sense of responsibility and ownership throughout the team that can only produce positive results.

4. Learn to listen
Listening isn’t just about hearing the words someone says, or even remembering them well enough to repeat them later – it’s about understanding, and that requires a certain amount of critical thinking. Even if you see things differently, it’s important to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see their thoughts and ideas from their perspectives.

Truly listening in this manner will make you a better decision maker and make your team members feel cared for and valuable. And who knows? Perhaps listening well will lead you to the next solution or new idea.

5. Be open to new ideas
No matter how long you’ve been in your position, what experience you have or what education you acquired to get where you are today, you don’t have all the answers. In fact, lots of experience can sometimes make it more difficult to come up with new, innovative ideas yourself.

That’s why you need to be on the lookout for new ideas, wherever they may come from. The world is changing fast, and the most junior member of your team may unexpectedly come up with the best way to reach your goals. In fact, more than just recognizing good new ideas when they come along, take a moment to consider the potential of every idea you can, even if it may seem outlandish. Sometimes a small tweak based on your experience can turn an imperfect new idea into the perfect strategy.

6. When you hear a good idea, tell the whole team
More on the leadership side of this issue, when a good new idea does come along, make sure to acknowledge it publically. Give the person (or people) who came up with it some recognition, or even a visible role to play in implementing it.

These things foster a sense of ownership and value, encourage engagement and lead to better practical results for the business.

7. Ask for advice
As we’ve already discussed, or at least hinted at, you don’t have all the answers, and you aren’t alone; you’re surrounded by an entire team of (hopefully) motivated professionals all working toward the same goals. Even when you think you know what to do, and especially if there is any doubt in your mind, ask for advice from whoever you can.

Seeing a diversity of opinions and possibilities will help guarantee that you make the best possible decision when the time comes while giving everyone a stake in whatever decision you do make.

8. Give examples
There’s no better way to lead, or manage, than showing your team what success looks like. On a practical level, that means directing them to examples in other companies or of previous initiatives within your own to give them some idea of what they’re aiming for. On a more philosophical level, you should also set an example for them, but conducting yourself as you expect them to.
Clarity is the holy grail of communication. Without the clarity of a clear example, misunderstandings may arise and conflict could even emerge as each instinctively interprets ideas and instructions in their own way. Examples help keep everyone on the same page.

We could talk about all kinds of different skills, but in this article we chose 8 of the most important strategies for management and leadership.

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