Strong Leaders: Strong Enough for Their Teams

Strong enough could mean having sufficient energy, capacity and emotional and intellectual fortitude to challenge the status quo, as you look into the future with strategic vision. Strong enough for your team could mean you can be counted on to flex your leadership muscles to protect your team and get the most out of them. Strong enough for your team could describe the charisma and the tenacity exhibited as you demand the performance and execution required for success.

Boot camp for the military and training camp for athletic teams are conducted to ensure their members are mentally and physically fit; that they are strong enough to compete in battle or competition. We need a managerial or leadership equivalent of these events to ensure managers are strong enough for their teams. Are they strong enough to lead? Do they have what it takes to deliver what is required by their team to help them function at their highest level of performance? Are the managers the catalyst to continuously develop teams to deliver world class results?

Performance evaluation

Strong enough for their team is apparent during performance evaluations. Companies encourage employees to provide input which is included in the final written document. This input gives the manager insight into how workers see their performance. If the employee is candid, they outline their strengths and weaknesses, as they perform to reach or exceed their goals. The final document should be largely constructed using a perspective gathered from the boss’s observations. Otherwise, the employee will question the strength of their leader. Also, some people have an inaccurate view of their performance and strength is needed to deliver an unpopular message.

Organizations are concerned about inconsistencies in managerial judgment across their management teams. They want to guard against some managers being easier on their people than other managers. People have been known to receive an excellent rating from one manager which would not be excellent in the eyes of another manager. This disparity leads to some people being rated higher than they deserve. Organizations try to minimize this problem by a process known as calibration. These organizations have meetings with their managers and discuss their team and individual team members. Members of their peer management group will have an opportunity to question, challenge and give input into the performance of people on other teams. Each manager’s interpretation of their team performance is open for discussion and sometimes, a heated debate. Calibration is often a competitive event and the manager who is strong enough derives the appropriate benefits and impressions for his team.

A strong enough manager is required to competently represent their team in these calibration meetings; otherwise their team will suffer when challenges are made. These challenges have performance rating and financial implications. A manager who is strong enough supports their assessments with a strong written evaluation. They also have strong verbal communication skills to state their case and fend off any challenges. Timidity and poor verbal skills may stifle the growth of individual team members if the manager’s peers do not gain an accurate assessment of their abilities.

Additionally, managers also convene to discuss the talented individuals on their team in the succession planning meetings. These meetings are held to evaluate talent to fill vacancies and to ensure they have qualified candidates for promotions to build a pipeline of talent for the future. A manager must be strong enough with their communication and analytical skills to state a solid case for their top talent.

Strong enough to challenge

Managers have to be strong enough to stand up to their people for their own development; to ensure that they are giving their best efforts. They must be tough enough to make the hard calls and replace individuals who are a poor fit for the job and the organization. I heard one manager say, in frustration,” I should have fired him 15 years ago.” He was lamenting the fact that the current leadership would not be wrestling with this problem person if he had done his job many years earlier.

An employee from a major airline was distraught when they discovered that their manager was not strong enough for them during a major restructuring campaign. The team was decimated and many individuals were cut from the organization. A manager, who was strong enough, may not have prevented everyone from receiving a negative verdict, but the people would have received a fair trial.

A creative director was frustrated every time senior leadership disagreed with her when she pitched a new proposal. Her boss was always present and frequently left her on her own to defend her project. She knew she had his support outside of the meeting, but wanted him to come to her assistance when she was under fire. If he had been strong enough for his team, even though her programs were denied, she would’ve been motivated, knowing that he was in there fighting along with her.

Managers who are too strong

Some managers have a bully personality and are disliked and not trusted by their peers. Their reputation could work against anyone associated with them. These managers are viewed as tyrants and suffer from being too strong or too forceful in their business relationships. They make a lot of enemies and sometimes revenge is taken against anyone they support, especially anyone seen as their protégé.

Some managers are viewed as difficult to work with by outsiders. When asked about his leadership style, the employees gave favorable comments. The manager gave them exactly what they needed. He was matching toughness with the needs of his team. They said he was fair, disciplined and had their best interests at heart. The secret was to apply the right amount of strength to the right situation.

The objective of the strong leader is to be strong enough to be effective in every dimension of their job, to achieve the best results.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

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