Last week, while working with front line managers, I stumbled across something important. It happened when I asked participants to describe a manager / leader / boss that they had worked for and for whom they had had respect and admiration.
They used words like supportive and encouraging, and enthusiastic and committed to describe them. They were universally held to be good listeners. The front line managers claimed that “you knew where you stood with them”, “they knew what they were about”, and “you knew they had your back.”
All these memorable bosses were highly competent, and it was so much more than their competence which stood out. When asked what it was that these respected and admired bosses did, the front line managers recalled conversations with them which created clarity, which provided recognition and constructive feedback and which opened up new possibilities for their careers. As leaders, these great bosses seemed to care about them as a person, and communicated why their team members’ roles and contribution mattered.
What landed most strongly was the distinction in language that they used to describe these great bosses. It was the equivalent of being a manager or the “Skipper”. The title of boss or manager is a role given to someone by an organisation. The latter term, Skipper, is a title earned over time and bestowed on someone as a conscious or unconscious sign of respect and admiration.
As I noticed the group’s language, it brought me back to some key ideas about management and leadership:
- Emotional intelligence is the biggest driver of leadership excellence. Something all the Skippers had in spades.
- The Gallup research on the 12 Questions is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1999.
- Skippers create psychological safety, where honest, forthright conversation can be had. Not necessarily the warm and fuzzy kind, but the kind that organisations need in order to have real conversations about the things that matter.
- The stronger the respect and trust between a leader and those they lead, the more influence the leader has.
- Leadership happens in a conversation.
We can support you to develop your people to make the shift from managers to skippers.
We help you grow leaders.