Knowledge as the foundation of Leadership

I’ve worked with people with different backgrounds (Latin Americans *from Mexico to Argentina*, Western Europeans *From Portugal to The Netherlands* and some Americans) and all have shown the same negative reaction towards leadership without background.  According to my observation, people like an expert of a given subject to direct and manage; hence a vertical career is admired.

The negative reactions appear when employees don’t understand decision taken. So the difference between a good leader and a lame one is not the former experience she has, but the ability to listen, understand and talk-through her team in the direction of a given goal. And I’m not saying justify. A manager should need not justify to her reports, but help them understand why a certain decision was taken (keeping them in the loop).

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Donald Trump yells ‘you’re fired’ (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

It doesn’t matter if the boss has no experience in a specific area or she’s a guru. In either case she might be great leader or not. The latter (Guru), is a great source of knowledge and if you’re very junior you should try to absorb as much as possible. The other (no-experience boss) might be more ‘open-minded’ than a Guru, hence bringing fresh ideas to the table. However what separates good leadership is the ability to listen, understand and motivate her team.

Having dealt with both types, I must admit that I have challenged the perception of an experience-lacking manager by telling my colleagues and reports to give the boss a chance (the benefit of the doubt) when not taking the expected action because her opinion might have a component that we don’t understand. Often if we ask the proper questions we can learn something and help.

However I’m not a suck-up that is always defending higher power. In fact, I’m unemployed among other things because I challenged my boss’ decisions after my team gave clear recommendation (with proper background) of action towards avoiding huge expenses and seeing that boss stalling. My team and I thought he was looking for responsible (other than himself) and so I felt responsible to ask what was taking so long.

I was right, and he did found a responsible (ME). A couple of weeks later I was asked to ‘stand-up’ against the big fish (the country manager) and justify the taken actions, my boss acted as a shooter on the squad wall and asked me the same questions I’ve been asking him for the past months and unprepared to this ambush, I defended my reports (that did what both my boss and I told them) and assume some of the responsibility. It’s a shame that someone with 10 years’ experience in the area, good credibility and the decision maker of this project going wrong pointing the finger towards newly come manager (6- months) to save his ass.

Bottom line:

If you are a boss, listen to your team, ask the proper questions *start with why* and keep your team on the loop.

If you are the report, ask for feedback, accept your boss’ experience and open your mind.

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Posted in Leadership, Management

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