Things Leaders Can Manage (and Should)
1. Focus and Attention
You can manage what you put your attention on. You can focus strategically on where you’re going, or you can focus on short-term fires and go from crisis to crisis.
In areas where you have autonomy, you can identify your priorities. If you choose too many, they will manage you, instead of you managing them. In settings where your priorities are identified by others, your success will be determined by how well you manage them.
Time is a finite resource, but how you manage the time you have is up to you. It helps to sort what’s urgent and what’s important.
You can best manage your own expectations by finding the sweet spot between your dreams and reality. You manage other people’s expectations by communicating honestly and frequently.
We rarely have enough money for everything we need and want. So setting up a clear budget puts you in a better position to make it work. And by tracking your budget, you know early if you need to make adjustments or seek help.
You have many choices on how to get the exercise you need. It is up to you to set up and manage a healthy exercise regime.
You can manage whether you eat healthy food and how much.
You might not be able to manage whether you fall asleep, but you can manage what time you go to bed and what you do before bedtime to help yourself unwind and get ready for sleep.
You manage commitments by being careful to only make commitments you are reasonably sure you can fulfil. And if something happens that you cannot honour a commitment, you inform the people involved.
Manage stress by avoiding over-committing, not making a lot of big changes at once, and being clear about your priorities. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control that creates stress. However, even in stressful situations, you can still experience joy. Learn stress reduction techniques, and if you cannot manage stress on your own, seek help from a qualified professional.
You might not be able to stop pain, but there are many things you can do to manage the level of pain you experience, from traditional to non-traditional practices and medications.
You can manage the education you need. There are many avenues available to develop the emotional intelligence and social skills necessary for effective leadership.
Trying to manage your feelings is a bad idea. When we allow our feelings to surface, they dissipate. However, there is a big difference between feeling your feelings and acting them out. What you need to manage is how you behave. Manage your reactivity to your feelings.
You can manage what comes out of your mouth, whether you listen like a successful leader, and whether you treat people respectfully.
A healthy ego is necessary for adulthood. However, if your ego is enlarged to the point that you think you deserve to be above others, it’s time for your own sake and others, to manage your ego. Narcissism does not make healthy leaders.
What Leaders Can’t Manage
You can try to influence people or motivate them. You can try to inspire them. You can invite them to join you. But you can’t manage them like you can other things.
People are not things. They have free will. You might get compliance through imposing your authority, but you will not get their commitment or full engagement. And if you push too hard, you will be met with a passive resistance that increases as your own efforts increase.
Understanding how to influence without authority is a key leadership competency. It does not work to say “Do it because I told you so.” Your ability to influence is dependent on your credibility and character, and you must earn their trust.
The most powerful and helpful thing you can do as a leader is to stop trying to manage people, and to focus your efforts on providing leadership that engages the hearts and minds of everyone on your team.
Invite your team to help create a vision of a future you all desire. If you can do that, your people will take care of managing themselves.
This article previously appeared on Sea Point Center