Being an effective manager means becoming a leader, a motivator, a mentor, and a source of inspiration, enabling others around them to develop and succeed. But how do people become managers? Some will graduate from college or university with a degree and step straight into a management position, while others will start their career in a more junior role and work their way up. The best managers are those who combine their personal strengths with theoretical study and certification and plenty of real-life experience.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to management, as every individual needs to find their own natural rhythm, which can take years of experience. There are, however, steps that an aspiring manager can take to hone their craft and become a more effective leader.
This article outlines some ideas and tips that should help you to harness your natural leadership qualities and build excellent management skills.
Read as much as you can about leadership
It may seem a simple idea, but just about everyone needs to start with the basics of leadership theory. Do some research into the best books on management, leadership, teamwork, motivation, or any other areas of business management that interest you. Some books will touch on leadership very broadly, while others will focus on particular facets, but all your reading will help. You may find that you disagree with some ideas, but that will only focus your mind on the kind of leader you want to be. Business management blogs can also be useful if you are short on time.
Find your leadership style
What works for one manager may not work for another, which is why there are so many different approaches and techniques to consider before settling your own style of management. Some managers prefer to maintain a distance from their workforce and to keep communications on a relatively formal footing. Others will try to get to know the individuals in their team and take a more supportive and informal approach. Others will position themselves as an inspiring figure who tries to encourage their team to self-manage to an extent. It is important to consider your company and industry when developing your management style, as well as your overall objectives.
Complete further education or training
In addition to reading, it is important to challenge yourself and expedite your development through study or training. There are a wide range of management training programs that will explore key leadership techniques, psychological concepts, and practical skills, as well as delivering expert guidance. Your employer may be prepared to fund a leadership training program, or there may be courses or events in your community.
To really set yourself apart from the crowd, you may want to consider completing a master’s in business administration (MBA). An MBA provides students with the chance to develop key management skills, including solving problems and collaborating with others. The program is designed by academics who are experienced in management in a range of industries and will equip graduates with leadership skills, strategic thinking, analytical skills, and more. Many people choose to study an online MBA as they can do so from home in their free time, studying to their own schedule, and can continue to work while they study. This enables them to apply what they have learned in their MBA to real-life situations as they progress through the course.
Develop your soft skills
In some cases, managers are only in positions of leadership because they excelled at their job and continued to be promoted. Unfortunately, being good at your job does not necessarily mean you will be a good manager.
To be a successful leader, it is vital to develop soft skills such as communication, decision-making, delegation, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Managers need to be excellent organizers as well as able to provide support and encouragement to the people they are responsible for. This might include dealing with disagreements between team members, ensuring that growth is encouraged and nurtured, or motivating and disciplining people when required. Visit The Entrepreneur for the most common types of difficult employees.
Set yourself targets
Deciding that you want to become a “better” manager is great, but how do you know if you are on the right track? To progress, it is important to set yourself short-term targets and goals with deadlines. For example, you might put five books on leadership on a list and set yourself the goal of reading all of them in six months or a year, or that you will read at least a chapter per week. You could enroll on a leadership course or decide that you will have attended a number of networking events during the year. When you can see your progress, you are more likely to stay motivated.
Seek out management experience
Theoretical study is essential, but it needs to be accompanied by practical, real-life experience. If you are not already in a management role, however, this can be difficult to do. A potential solution is to seek out opportunities in voluntary organizations or to lead a project in your own time. Whether you lead a club, society, plan events, or run fundraising activities for charity, you will be flexing your management muscles and practicing being a leader. It is also worth asking your current employer or manager for more responsibilities, such as leading a small team project or organizing an internal event.
Associate with people in positions of leadership
Humans learn from the example set by others, and seeing how other people lead and manage can be incredibly useful in your own development. In addition to observing your manager at work, it is also worth networking with other influential people in your industry. Spending time with them and being able to ask for their advice and guidance can fast-track your development. Attend networking events and industry conferences where managers will be speaking about their experiences. You might be able to establish a mentoring relationship with someone who is happy to provide personalized guidance during your career.