Leading the “Strong Ones” – Why Successful Managers Are Leaders First
- The strong ones on your team need attention, too
- Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers
- To create a strong team, you need to encourage growth and training
Everyone I know who has gone through a major life change has wound up losing a few friendships along the way – often due to misunderstandings. Recently, one of those friends (we’ll call her Friend A) asked me why another friend (Friend B) wasn’t talking to her anymore following a divorce. I explained without judgment that Friend B had felt that Friend A simply hadn’t been there for her when she needed her. She responded, rather confused, “She’s always so strong; I didn’t think she needed me.”
This exchange got me thinking: What does it take to become strong? You have to go through adversity and overcome challenges to be strong. A body builder isn’t born strong; he or she has to work hard and endure a lot of sweat, pain and injury to become strong physically. It’s no different for the rest of us strong people. We have had to overcome a lot of sweat, pain and injury to become strong mentally, emotionally and professionally. But just because we have overcome challenges in life and become strong does not mean that we don’t need the same care and support that others need.
What does this have to do with being a marketing leader? Actually, it has everything to do with being a marketing leader. On any marketing team, you have a team of individuals who all need different levels of support and guidance. Some seem strong, so you may tend to leave them alone and focus on the “needy” ones. But don’t fall into that trap. Your strong team members still need you; they just don’t always make their needs known.
Because these strong team members won’t make their needs known, you will have to make the first move. Carve out time to provide guidance and support to those team members, perhaps in a quarterly growth discussion. Ask them about their future plans (even if those plans don’t include you or your company) and probe until you find an insecurity or weakness, or perhaps just a skill gap that you can help them fill or overcome. Trust me – everyone has areas that could use improvement. A good leader helps his/her team members improve with confidence.
Notice I did not say “good manager”; I said “good leader.” That was on purpose. A Harvard Business Review article written by Vineet Nayar succinctly presents the difference between management and leadership: “Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.”
If you want to be a good leader, you need to look at each team member as an individual and give all team members equal attention. The attention you give the strong ones may be more about leadership training, presentation acumen, navigating internal politics or advice on future challenges and projects. For your more needy ones, you may need to focus more on tactical excellence and regular check-ins to provide the morale boost they need. Either way, remember that the strong ones need you just as much as the weaker ones do. If you can balance that attention so that each individual, regardless of need, feels valued by you, you will have a cohesive, high-performing team that drives success.
Although these concepts apply to marketing teams in companies of all sizes, it is vitally important in start-ups and emerging companies. Our data shows that 67 percent of high-growth emerging companies (those with less than $250 million in revenue and have greater than 40 percent annual revenue growth) already offer marketing enablement and are 42 percent more likely to spend more than $1,000 per person annually on training. So instead of focusing solely on marketing metrics, keep your eye on developing your team members as individuals, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.
As Bill Gates once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”