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How managers can transform into successful leaders

The sweet spot lies in looking at the bigger picture without losing sight of crucial details

The fundamental trait that distinguishes a manager from a leader is the ability to create, not count value; and build relationships rather than use them. (Unsplash)

India’s emerging entrepreneurship landscape is quite vibrant and exciting. The number of startups raising capital and chasing dreams is increasing exponentially, bringing in a new breed of young founders who are leading with innovative ideas. A PwC report suggests that up to 40% of India’s $10 trillion economy in 2034 could be derived from new solutions. Even in traditional companies, senior management positions are being handed to younger talent and the old mantra of “experience counts” is fortunately being thrown out of the window.

Thus, a question in everyone’s mind is how does one accelerate the transformation of a manager into a leader? The fundamental trait that distinguishes a manager from a leader is the ability to create, not count value; and build relationships rather than use them. Certain principles can help one transition smoothly to the echelons of leadership. Here are five ideas to help you reach that level.

First, think

Prioritizing action over thought can often pull you back from exploring your full potential. It is not as if you are not capable of delivering solutions or looking at the big picture, but the hurry to generate quick results often comes in the way of creating holistic solutions. Often, half-baked ideas might be given the greenlight as leaders may not find adequate criticism during discussions. But when things go downhill and introspective sessions follow, people find that the premise of the idea was itself faulty. Effective leaders know that this crisis can be nipped in the bud if enough energy is invested at the exploration stage by listening carefully to feedback.

Go granular

Big ideas are definitely the foundation, however, it is small details that sustain an endeavour. To create a successful project, pay attention to small details. Focusing on the granularity of an idea helps prevent blunders in the long run and increases chances of success. In the excitement of cracking a big idea, one may miss out on an important detail but, as any veteran jigsaw puzzle players will attest, it is the finer details that always hold the key to arriving at the bigger picture. Goals are exciting, but effective leaders know that you will never get there unless you explore the granular details of the right path that leads to them.

Focus on few

Once the finer details have been chalked out, it’s time to shift attention to the framework of execution and how every step should be prioritized. Attempting too many activities at the same time is a sign of confusion. Don’t shoot and pray. It rarely works because if too many initiatives are put to action at the same time, few are likely to see completion. Effective leadership is about arriving at the right solutions in minimum possible time and that is not likely if one starts tackling multiple matters of varying importance, all at the same time. Identify your top five steps to the goal and steer all your actions towards them.

Inspire, don't manage

What connects goals with results is the relationships with other people—all the people you know or have worked with or will connect with eventually. Relationships of all kinds are built on one fundamental premise: trust. Trust comes from starting with the right intent and then by pushing the envelope of transparency so that good intention creates trusting relationships. Effective leaders know they cannot achieve anything of significance alone. Thus, they master the art of inspiring and not managing teams. Passion around your idea, shared by many and not few, increases chances of its success manifold.

Create a value scale

Technically, a concept borrowed from economics, the concept of value addition, may seem a bit tricky but can be resolved by having a scale of need. For instance, if a person is cold and you offer them food, it’s unlikely to count as a value addition compared to a blanket. Knowing where to share which insight is as significant as the desire to share with others in the first place. This value scale is determined by the other person’s need(s) and not by what you are able to give. Thus, the best results are achieved by effective leaders when two elements in this equation—the leader and their insight, as well as the recipient in need of the value addition—operate in the right equilibrium.

As a manager, if you tend to micromanage those around you in the hurry to scale the ladder of success, you’re most likely making a mistake. The sweet spot of a manager transitioning into a leader lies in looking at the bigger picture without losing sight of crucial details. This disparity is best bridged by being aware of one’s strengths and being able to convert those into nugget-like insights that can be useful for those around us.

Vineet Nayar is former CEO of HCL Technologies, founder-chair, Sampark Foundation, and author of Employees First, Customer Second.

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