My friend Eric recently wrote a post about critical management skills. I had intended to leave a comment with my thoughts, but instead I’ll build on them here. Eric hit many key points, but what I thought was lacking from his list are visible leadership and setting a vision. Visible leadership requires not just doing the things that Eric suggests, but a bit of showmanship as well. Employees must see evidence of active support from their manager, even if that means the manager has to tilt at the occasional windmill. The nature of the workforce has changed from generations past. Loyalty to the company and a rigid chain of command are no longer the norm. Leaders must recognize when they have good people working for them and must avoid pulling rank.
Setting a vision can be a difficult task. The reality that the vision is based on changes almost as soon as the vision is set. Still, effective leadership requires that such a vision be defined. Visions cannot be specific projects or tasks, they much be more broad, but not so general as to be meaningless. Ideally, the organization will have a strategic plan of some sort. This is normally defined at the highest level. Each level down must identify how its own duties tie into the strategic plan, all the way down to each individual employee. The group’s strategic plan then guides the projects the group will work on, how new and vacated positions will be staffed, and how employee performance will be evaluated.