12 Steps for Managers to Become Leaders

Brass Number 12 SignToday’s post is by Andrew Cravenho, CEO of CBAC.

It’s true! All managers are not leaders. The fact is, most managers achieve their position without ever aspiring to it. They become managers because they are good at the job they are doing. Their bosses view a promotion to manager as a reward for excellent work. Bosses tend to assume that these newly minted managers will be adept at managing for no other reason than the fact they excelled at performing the tasks they are now charged with supervising. Sometimes it works out just that way, but more often than not, it doesn’t.


Leadership has much less to do with knowing how to do a job than it does with inspiring others to do the job. Do you think Time, Inc.’s Laura Lang ever wrote a news article or sold a print ad? She hasn’t! Similarly, Lakshmi Mittal never toiled in a steel mill yet, he is at the reins of the largest steel producer in the world—ArcelorMittal.

The good news is, managers who have been awarded leadership roles as a result of superb job skills actually enjoy advantages over leaders like Laura Lang and Lakshmi Mittal. Managers who know the jobs and processes they have been asked to manage also understand what they can reasonably expect from their team. Managers in this position can always learn to become great leaders.

Insights for Would-be Leaders

Define the goals

The team you lead needs to understand the vision. There is little point in assembling a team if the goals for the team are not articulated. Leadership is, first and foremost, exemplified by the ability to lay out a clear vision that defines what you are trying to accomplish and what the goal’s achievement will mean to the business.

Lay out the facts

Your team needs to understand the big picture. Lay out the facts for them. Providing the team with a high level view helps them understand the part they play in the success of the project and, for that matter, the success of the organization.

Set the priorities

Priorities are important in any task that is undertaken. A leader must set the priorities. This can’t be left to the individual team members to decide among themselves. Human nature, being what it is, means that everyone views his/her task as the most important one.

Connect the dots

Presenting the vision, laying out the facts, establishing the priorities and expecting everyone to understand how to move forward is not going to work. You still need to make the connections for your team and ensure they have at least a broad grasp of those things essential to achieving the goal.

Praise progress

Acknowledging individual and team progress is an important element of good leadership. Recognizing a job well done with a word or gesture means a lot to individual team members and the team as a whole. “Attaboys” are cheap and you can afford to spread them around when they are deserved. However, you are cautioned against diminishing their value by offering them up when they are not deserved. Try picking out a couple of staffers whose outstanding accomplishments emphasize your priorities and overall strategy.

Encourage feedback

No one appreciates being “talked at.” Say what you need to say and then open the floor to discussion. Two-way conversations always accomplish superior results. After all, how can you be sure your message is getting through if you don’t encourage questions?

Meet the team’s needs

One of the important roles played by any manager is to ensure the team has everything reasonably required to meet its objectives. Leaders shouldn’t micro-manage but they should be sufficiently engaged to recognize what the team needs to succeed in its mission.

Separate the wheat from the chaff

Not everyone on your team will be a good fit. It is important that your leadership skills include the ability to differentiate between discontent and disloyalty. Discontent can usually be resolved, disloyalty cannot. If you encounter someone that truly doesn’t want to be on your team, endeavor to find them a role elsewhere in the organization more suited to their needs.

Conversely, there will be team members you won’t want to lose—top performers who give more than they take. It is up to you as their leader to review compensation and make sure they are paid in a manner commensurate with their contribution—even if you must do so outside the bounds of the normal review cycle. Even the most modest of rises can engender loyalty and enhanced performance.

Control the purse strings

That said, it is also incumbent on the leader to control costs and eliminate unnecessary expenses. Find savings wherever possible and re-purpose wasted resources on those things that can move your vision forward.

Give feedback

Providing feedback is just as important as receiving feedback. We’ve touched on praising progress, but giving feedback goes beyond praise. It is essential to let the team know when it is not achieving its potential. If the team isn’t meeting your expectations, you must tell them. If you don’t, you will lose the team’s respect and exacerbate the problem. Great leaders press the team to reach high standards.

Earn trust

Almost all that has gone before relates to the issue of trust. Your team’s trust is earned by attending to the items we’ve discussed here. Just as you need to trust your team’s veracity, judgment and passion, the team needs to be able to trust that you exemplify those same qualities.

Celebrate milestones

Celebrating milestones is not to be confused with praising progress. Milestones are distinct accomplishments, not simply progress toward a goal. These should be acknowledged and celebrated as a victory for the team, not just one or two individuals. Such events will serve to coalesce the team and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Leaders Are Made, Not Born

Very few managers come to their positions with great leadership skills. These skills must be learned. While they may have an aptitude for leadership, it is definitely an acquired skill. Maybe from experience, years of trial and error or, perhaps by the example of others, but it is a learned skill nonetheless. Just because a person excels at a particular task or tasks, does not portend that the individual will become a successful leader.

– Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC – an innovative invoice finance company. As a serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and medium sized businesses take control of their cash flow. Read Andrew’s latest blog here. You can find Andrew on Google+.

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Photo: DSC00618 by Andreas Cappell

7 Responses to “12 Steps for Managers to Become Leaders”

  1. […] Andrew Cravenho covers 12 clear steps that managers must take, like setting a vision and praising team members, if they want to become better leaders.  […]

  2. Robin A Henderson says:

    Great insight Andrew! Often times organizations assume all managers are good leaders. Leadership is developed over time. Leaders drive innovation, collaboration, and engagement. Managers check the boxes.

  3. […] Andrew Cravenho covers 12 clear steps that managers must take, like setting a vision and praising team members, if they want to become better leaders.  […]

    • Jim Shaffer says:

      Sounds a bit old school, especially regarding controlling the purse strings. Just the opposite of the move toward open book companies that trust people, make sure they understand the financial statements and empower them to make smart decisions.

  4. Ralph McLaughlin says:

    Manager vs. Leader. I’ve had this discussion with many people. Some say the ‘Manager’ is bad, and you need to a ‘good leader.’ Truth is you need both and if you confuse the two you will get poor results… Managers take care of budgets, facilities, equipment, staffing etc. etc. You don’t ‘lead’ these things but they are vital to any organization and one’s managment skills are reflected in how well these things are taken care of. Leaders, like what has already been posted, get their people to perform well and complete tasks assigned to them. People can be great leaders and can be well liked. But if I don’t manage the organization well; make sure my people have good training, equipment, and develop policies/procedures for the staff to follow, I won’t be liked for very long……….

  5. Ramo says:

    They are interesting and important for practice our work

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