The Leadership Challenge
Originally published: 11.01.08 by Heather Onorati
You must master the art of working through others rather than "doing it yourself."
For the past several years, I have been both a working journalist and a master’s student. Among my editorial roles, I lead a staff in facilitating the exchange of industry news and best practices for a publication directed at dermatologists. Most recently, I oversaw a staff of seven referred to as the centralized content group. I directed workflow and fostered relationships between the group and a number of individual healthcare publications.
Through these roles I have experienced first-hand the challenges of leading people. Individuals’ personalities and motivations are diverse.
As a leader, you have to figure out what makes each staff member tick, because you must skillfully leverage your people’s talents rather than your own. Your success becomes more dependent on things like team-building, influence, and the ability to motivate at the right times and in the right ways.
In my student role, I explored these ideas in a master’s thesis titled: A Survey Examining the Perceived Leadership Ability of Business Press Editors-in-Chief. Simply stated, I looked at the perceptions of editors’ leadership talents.
Through all of my research, the common thread was that they are highly skilled at journalism, but often lack a talent for inspiring and motivating people. In my editorial role, I found this to be true for doctors too—they are skilled at practicing medicine but not necessarily as knowledgeable at running a practice, creating a culture, and leading office staff.
As I stepped into my role with HVACR Business and began educating myself on key issues facing this industry, I had several conversations with editorial board members and contributing writers. I asked many of them to tell me about one of the biggest challenges unique to this industry. In response, I was told, in summary, that one of the biggest challenges is educating great technicians to also become talented leaders.
It’s a universal challenge. Many of us find our initial niche in life—hvacr technicians, doctors, journalists, you name it—and we become skilled at that job. As we become masters of our professions, our careers grow. However, whether we grow within a company or build our own companies, our new jobs begin to look very different than the one in which we became so proficient. That’s because being skilled at your profession doesn’t necessarily make you skilled at leading people.
Most of you probably began your careers as technicians, and as you became more skilled, your entrepreneurial spirits took over. Next, you had businesses to manage and staffs to lead. Maybe you were naturals, probably most of you have been learning through trial and error. How many times have you wondered “why doesn’t that guy get it?” or, “What do I have to do to get through to these people?”
With this particular leadership challenge in mind, we put together an issue this month that discusses three key aspects of leadership: leadership of your business, leadership in your community and leadership of your people.
In, “Little leadership” (p. 14), author Gary Bradt explains that often, it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference in your relationships with your employees. He offers some valuable tips and ideas to get you thinking about applying this concept to your own business so you can take advantage of those small opportunities.
Author and editorial board member, Theo Etzel, talks about how supporting local organizations can have impact beyond organizational and local borders in “Investing in Community” (p. 18). He makes the point that anyone can make a difference, and by managing your budget properly to take advantage of gifting opportunities you can actually reap wider affects throughout your communities.
And, last, author Dana Borowka explains in “Hiring for Personality” (p. 9) why using these tools can help you hire more effectively, manage employees better and deal more successfully with difficult people. He offers several tips on how you can select an appropriate assessment.
Through the pages of HVACR Business, we want to provide you practical, proven solutions from experts to help you run the most successful business. One aspect of that is how you lead your teams. Contrary to some beliefs, it’s not something “you either have or you don’t.” It’s learnable—but it needs to be cultivated.
There is a need for ongoing leadership education in every industry. As we march forward into the New Year, I look forward to facilitating the exchange of best leadership practices among all of you. Together we’ll navigate and master the challenge.