I have been in the workforce now for a while and worked with/under some wonderful managers, and under some that are still trying to find their way there. Interestingly almost all of them were middle-aged women. I noticed that some managed to turn any constellation of people into a great team, others needed to handpick their own loyal army of supporters, and again others ended up with a high turnover and attrition.

The notion of leader, or leadership has intrigued me for a few decades. First I thought of it as a strictly American phenomenon, as the word simply does not exist in my mother tongue (Hungarian), and as far as a know it is not a word one throws around with abandon in German either – Fuehrer has a bad ring to it. My first encounter with the tem was the result of an American guest speaker at my alma mater in Hungary, who was rehashing Blanchett’s 10 minute manager. I was in awe, not knowing any better. Why? Because it gave me a vocabulary to think with about what makes an organization functional and inspiring. (you can’t help but wonder why this term is so American ….)

So, without a lot of secondary research, here are my thoughts about what is the magic sauce to the teams with great leaders. What do the managers/team leaders do differently from their less successful and more miserable counterparts?

  1. First and foremost, they are not the center of their team. Instead, they make sure that everyone has a respected voice and team members are not defined by their relationship to the managers.
  2. They see themselves as translators when after a meeting with other stakeholders: they share their learning. They do not yield their knowledge as a weapon but are transparently sharing.Better informed collaborators accomplish higher quality work because
    1. they have a clearer understanding of what needs to be done
    2. they feel empowered

A straightforward litmus test: if you were to get sick/kidnapped for a week, could you team stay productive? Or would they collapse without your directives? Are they all supporting you, or is the team members all support each other?

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