It is axiomatic that healthy organizations are led by capable management and leadership. While management and leadership clearly benefit from the ‘traditional’ skills such as project management, finance, accounting, human resource management, marketing and technology, there is still the equally, if not more important notion of the ‘human side’ to management and leadership—and that is the very art of leadership or management. After all, those being managed and led are human as well.
Effective leaders and manager are ultimately responsible for an organizations success or failure, and are often compensated accordingly. They are expected to be many things to many people, be it subordinates, peers, shareholders, or higher up leaders, and given that pressure, it is understandable that managers often appear to perform in a less than optimal manner (Teal, 1996).
Chief among these important management and leadership traits are several critical attributes, each of which have a very real, human side, including without limitation: communication, integrity, and transformational leadership.
In an organization, managers and leaders engage in numerous exchanges of information on a daily basis. It has been estimated in fact, that such exchanges may take up the majority of one’s waking hours (Collins, Ch. 8, p.38). In the context of a business operation, managers spend the entire day engaged in this form of activity and had best do it well, as effective communications are central to effectuating positive team-oriented and collaborative work environments. Verbal and written communications skills are non-negotiable, and must be carefully honed to apply both effectively and appropriately to a wide variety of audiences inside and outside of one’s organization.
The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most sought after management and leadership traits, yet is something that is quite hard to teach. Coursework can emphasize the importance certain communications techniques or strategies, but it is the very real act of conveying information to another, that invokes a distinctly human and personal element. Communications can come in the form of instructions, delegation, inquiry, direction, or motivation. Communications can occur via email, in person, by text, instant message, corporate memo or video transmission. Form is perhaps less crucial, than how those messages are received and acted upon are among the essential elements of whether or not the sender is successful in reaching his or her communications target and/or objective.
The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is good for employees and good for the organization. Managers and leaders who are excellent communicators make better decisions and can resolve problems sooner. Effective communication, particularly two-way communication, also leads to the type of 360º feedback that provides ample warning for challenges or issues that may lie ahead for an organization. Organizations with excellent communicators at the helm also benefit in other ways including through: improved business relationships, more effective marketing messages, improved productivity in the workplace, and a better corporate image internally and externally.
An organization led by strong communicators will inevitably enjoy less turnover and greater employee satisfaction, where employees are motivated by those leading them and can trust in what is being communicated to them by management. The benefits of worker retention and enhanced productivity, is oft reflected in the bottom line, through strong financial results which are indicative of a well-performing organization. In other words, and more simply put, happy workers can lead inevitably to happy management and investors.
As a manager or leader, or as a decent human being, integrity is among the highest virtues. There is such value that comes from being truthful, careful and responsible in thought and action, and in communicating effectively and honestly with one another. While many people will avow and affirm their commitment to living and acting with integrity, walking this walk, is apparently so much harder to execute on a consistent basis.
Managers and leaders with integrity, exercise tremendous responsibility and care in their actions and communications. They keep promises, exercise fairness and honestly in their interactions with others, and remain committed to core values, such as ethics, accountability, and transparency. Integrity is perhaps best described as honor, or at least being honest with oneself and with others. This commitment then rises to the level of keeping promises and remaining free from excessive secrets or back room agendas.
In the corporate sense, integrity often means admitting that things have not gone as intended, being clear communicators in times of crisis, and not intentionally casting blame or distractions elsewhere in an effort to divert attention from the real issues at hand.
Employees can trust a leader with integrity and can take needed comfort in following someone who consistently demonstrates that they have their best interests, and that of the company as well, in mind at all times. By way of familiar example, one can look to crisis management as a means of judging a company or manager’s commitment to integrity. Ask yourself how you feel about companies that intentionally conceal bad news, or cast the blame elsewhere, in lieu of simply owning up to what has not gone as originally intended.
Ethics and integrity can create solidarity and loyalty amongst work teams, empowering them with the knowledge that the company and its leaders stand on their word, and/or upon their products or services unequivocally, and that the “right” thing or right path will be pursued irrespective of the circumstances.
Last, but never least, there is the gift of the transformational leader. These are servant leaders who mentor, motivate, and elevate an organization to new levels. Through respect and collaboration with subordinates and superiors alike, the transformational leader deftly accepts challenges and works tirelessly to partner with employees, in an effort to share knowledge and resources, and to ultimately transform the individuals and the organization itself.
As opposed to transactional leaders who acts are predominantly grounded in converting actions into bottom line benefit, with far less regard for the human side of the equation, the transformational leader places primacy on the actions taken to get to the enhanced bottom line. This is can be seen in a strong commitment to training and development of employees, or a constant determination to maximize each individual’s potential.
The transformational leader does not fear employee growth, but instead encourages and facilitates such improvement. There is most likely less ego and fear of being equaled or surpassed, than there is to bolster the good of the individual for the good of the whole organization. This leader relishes in feedback, good, bad or otherwise, knowing that such communication is integral in moving towards greater success. Motivation is also a key trait of transformational leadership, as it is through motivation that the evolved manager or leader can prompt employees to development into the finest form of themselves, the benefit of which is twofold, with both the person, and the organization poised to thrive.
Teamwork and sharing are hallmarks of a leader or manager that is looking to leave a legacy of transformation. Through performance feedback, training, appraisals, and roundtable discussion, the transformational leader elicits information needed to help the organization as a whole, take things to an even greater level of success.
In summary, the foregoing aspects of the human side of management and leadership discussed herein, communications, integrity, and transformational leadership are critical, intertwined dimensions of an effective leader and manager. Through the pursuit of excellence in each of these arenas, there is little doubt that the organizational upside potential is great.
- Collins, K. (2009). Exploring Business, v.2.1. Upper Saddle River, N.J. Pearson/Prentice Hall
- Shi, Q., and Chen, J. “Human Side of Project Management Leadership” (2006). Project Management Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.pmi.org/Learning/research-completed-research/human-side-of-project-management-leadership%20skills.aspx
- Teal, T. “The Human Side of Management” (November 1996). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from : https://hbr.org/1996/11/the-human-side-of-management/ar/1