I am giving myself 6 months to get myself back to the management status I was at the beginning of last year. I loved the coaching, I loved mentoring, I loved teaching and really there is a certain amount of power I had which was lovely. I wasn’t at CEO status but I was managing people, I was listened to and I was earning my title. Today I feel like I am too extraordinary for this ordinary position and I have to admit it sucks. I feel like that person who “used to be”. A few short years ago I was calling people up to make sure that they were doing the job they were supposed to do. Now I am in their shoes, but it is ok. In 5 years I obtained what it has taken people 10 years to do, I did it once and I will do it again. Somewhere along the road of life I lost my way, in my personal life, love life, health like everything all came at once, but I am back on the road so just need to speed up.
Last night I was thinking of a quote a former manager told us in a meeting. We are responsible but he is accountable. He would give us praise where praise was due but if there was an issue, he would make sure to sit us down and resolve it. There wasn’t any form of bashing, just a few stern “daddy” words but even though he was a little bit sarcastic and a tad racist (in my opinion, stemming from a few comments he used to make in passing about Ghanaians), he half way decent and with his approach we managed to make a success of the business. From his history, he had to change his approach, he was a kingpin in one of the countries and I think he rubbed the locals the wrong way. The result, a huge f*** up leading to restructuring and he was forced to move from a huge office with his own parking space, to an office as big as my store room, fighting for parking space with the rest of us.
Thinking about then made me look at my current situation now, there was an incident which happened way before I got here. I spent my time doing a nice excel analysis with bells and whistles and offered a solution, only to get a long winded email from the boss berating the young man who was handling before I took over. It ended with her warning me to ensure this doesn’t happen again, but nothing about solving the current problem. I could feel the young man’s energy deflate like a balloon which had been injected with lead. Plus, the mess is still there for me to go and explain it while my manager goes off to do her manager stuff.
Aptly enough, I was listening to Citi FM this morning, I love the morning show with Bernard what’s his name (sorry love 5 years and I never remember). He is a no holds barred host, a lot of radio stations politicize, they are in one camp or another and they are very choosy with their opinions. Bernard just tells it how it is, the country is in a mess and the leader needs to be held accountable. It’s the second term of NDC, the excuse that that’s the way the country was left by the previous government is over now. It’s about time that something was done about it.
They were discussing the issue of leadership, at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, the people were booing the current president when his name was called. There was a South African Intern at the radio station and when asked why they are booing the president, she responded that he is not doing a good job. So a comment was made that why are they airing their dirty laundry in public when the likes of President Obama was around. Her response to that was, that is why this country is the way it is, because nobody says anything.
This is not a political piece however, but I think it is a very valid point not only in politics but the society as a whole. Even in big multinationals, we churn out poor leaders after poor leaders and they are not held accountable, because nobody says anything. We grumble amongst ourselves and even those few who speak out are told to keep quiet.
If I take here for example, the lady is the studious type. The kind that will always ace an exam, where she worked before, she managed the process but didn’t manage the people. I have to give her credit, in a meeting she exhumes some confidence which I haven’t seen before, but within the group, I see very highly passionate people who are losing it little by little every day. This is not to slag her off, she is a nice enough person and a very intelligent person, I just don’t think if I am going to reach my goal of getting myself back to where I was in the next 6 months, I don’t think I will get there under her tenure.
There is a definite difference between a manager and a leader. You can be an excellent manager but a crappy leader and I see it a lot here, it’s not their fault, it’s not something you can learn or take an exam in, so they don’t realise that skill.
A manager just makes sure the work is done, she does that, but even if she were not in the house, it would be done anyway. A manager looks at the details “where are we on Project A?” She can go into a meeting and know everything; nothing is a surprise and can defend whatever issues have arose.
To be a true leader, it is more than making sure that people are working; it is about mentoring, coaching, guiding. The true testament of a true leaders is the amount of leaders that person has produced. When a person you used to manage is now a CEO or COO, you know you have done a good job. When 10 years down the line, the person you used to manage is doing the same job, you haven’t done shit, sorry. Some people, well you cannot help them, that is life, but when you have not managed to affect anyone, then all you have done is show yourself to be a good manager, if the work goes on and the people are stuck in a rut, the leader title is just that, a title.
A leader is one that knows the strengths and weaknesses of they are managing and fills in the gaps. One who can ignite that passion even when the chips are down, I find that most people here use a one stop shop approach. For example, I have been doing this job for many years, I don’t need someone to tell me to check stock cover especially when 5 minutes ago I sent you a great deal of analysis, obviously I wasn’t blindly allocating figures on an excel sheet.
A leader looks for solutions and not just tell you the problem. I sat in a meeting and for 20 minutes there was this back and forth over processes, in 5 minutes they could have just set timelines and I could have gone for lunch without a whacking headache. When I tried to intervene after 10 minutes, I got a look that was like “are you purposely trying to embarrass me” so I kept quiet while listening to John Legend’s all of me in my head (it’s back in my head again now…lol).
A leader inspires the best out of the people around them. Now I am not saying you have to be all sweetness and light all the time but when the only interaction comes when you have done the wrong thing (and via an email) well it can be very demoralizing and makes it very difficult to get up in the morning to come to work.
A good leader knows their people’s worth and puts them in the positions they deserve. When you know the person is a 10 and you put them in 2, what will happen is that person will look to be a 10 somewhere else because they feel cheated. On the flip side when the person is a 2 and you put them in 10, it is n o good for either me or you.
A leader is not selfish, when you have been doing the same job for many years and you have the potential to rise up they will push you forward and not hold you back because they can’t be bothered to find a replacement.
A leader needs to find the balance of when to be a bit timid and when to roar like a lion. I think here in Ghana, because the majority of people are quite timid, the mantle is given to someone who shows a bit of balls. Then I think those people show a bit too much balls and end up coming across like a dictator.
A good leader inspires a high amount of loyalty, a bad leader inspires a high turnover in staff. As I speak now, the number of people who have been looking at the likes of Jobberman and JobsinGhana are about 10-1. I am even wondering if I should go back to “school”.
One person I have a lot of time for is the former Marketing Director of my first company I worked in Ghana. He could put the fear of god in you one day but could be a pussy cat the next, but it was all justified and it was all fair. A lot of people had followed him from his previous company to where we were and yes they complained about him all the time but they were happy where they were. When targets were met he made sure that they got to enjoy the fruits of their hard labour with an away day or a dinner and every manager he had was there because they deserved to be there and was competent enough to do the job.
Even when he moved to another Telecoms company many years later, he took his people with him, and they went because they knew the type of leader they were getting (even though the company I hear is not the type of place you want to stay in).
Alas here, there are good managers but the leaders are few. I have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful leaders but for the past few years I have been a bit unlucky but maybe it is God’s way of making me a bit more humble.
These leaders unfortunately are here to stay and will remain as long as the people stay quiet. Hey even me, the almighty big mouth opinionator, has decided to stay quiet. Yesterday on the rare occasion she actually spoke to me, I was asked how it was going, all I could say is that I am still here. I cannot tell a lie, but I can say the Serenity prayer every morning and keep quiet.
I will touch this subject again, I have a book on management and leadership skills which I want to share with you.
For now, I am just trying to keep my cool and not say what is really on my mind (in the office). The good thing though, is that the leadership skill is not something that you need to acquire through formal classroom learning or even on the job training. You either have the knack or you don’t. You don’t have to manage people to be a leader. It can be at church, or even your colleagues at work.
What you need to do however, is get that skill down now, especially for those of us here in Ghana, our future depends on it.