how to lead: realization 36

Everyone has an initially different idea of what a good leader should be. Some thing a good leader does all of the work. Others think leaders are just figureheads who do not need necessary experience. For me, a leader is somebody who can do any task pertinent to their organization’s success, but at the same time, knows how to train and inspire others to do these tasks in their place. A very classic example of a poor leader was a restaurant manager that my friend worked for. The manager, rather than overseeing the restaurant, would instead be in the kitchen shucking corn with the other prep cooks. That’s not what she should be doing. Even if she was the best corn-shucker in the restaurant, her job as a manager/leader is to oversee the restaurant from the top level, especially from a front of house perspective since she is the general manager. She should have had a line or prep cook shuck the corn instead.

While people think that a good leader can be defined by different things, my definition was stemmed from a combination of leadership courses I have taken and from multiple directors and managers in companies, hotels, and restaurants. That being said, some people have the natural ability to be leaders and some people do not. People can be leaders, managers, or followers exclusively and depending on the situation. There is a definitive difference between being a leader and a manager, but because I have referenced managers as people who are supposed to be leaders in this post, I will just talk about managing in a later one so people will not get too confused. All you need to know is that there is a difference between being a manager by title and a manager by definition. Somebody who is a manager by title should still be expected to be a leader. Somebody who is a manager by definition is not a leader, or at least, in the context they are being assessed in; you can be a manager in one setting, but a leader in another.

When I became the editor-in-chief for a food publication, I was able to create this hierarchy of leaders with manager titles. I had two managing editors underneath me, who each led their own team of editors, who then led their own team of writers or photographers. It was stressful and strenuous at first, having to train everyone to understand how the software of our site worked and the publishing schedules and deadlines, but once we got everything settled, I never really needed to worry about the publication. I could have been run over by a car or put in a coma, and they would know how to still run everything in my absence. At that point, my role went from begin the trainer to being the innovator and cheerleader; I wanted them to give me feedback on how we can continue to improve the culture of our organization so that way they would be even more proud to be a part of it. I made sure to give everyone, from my managing editors to the editors to the writers and photographers, compliments and let them know I valued their contributions, because without the people in my organization, the publication would not be as amazing as it is.

Being a good leader stems from a lot of factors. Professionalism and maturity are definitely two things you need to take criticism when you fail, to self-reflect on how to improve, and to stay realistic and not kid yourself when a situation is out of control. You need to be brave and confrontational with conflict or problems. Never shy away. You set the example for everyone working beneath you. You set the culture. That being said, do not ever think that something is ever beneath you. You cannot be afraid to either do a task, or train somebody to do a task; when you’re training somebody, obviously lead by example and do the task yourself, just to show them. This was how I managed to train my editors. I showed them how to operate in the site, and they knew how to do it, and I made sure to let them know if they have any problems, to ask me questions. Encourage a supportive environment where you should not be this imposing authority figure, but rather somebody who has their head on straight, experience and knowledge, and an infectiously impressive work ethic. That’s how to be a great leader.

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