Beyond Management – Leading Your People

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One of the fundamental keys to success in any undertaking is providing leadership to others. In running your business as an entrepreneur, you must be an embodiment of right leadership. Your subordinates, no matter how brilliant and competent they may be, will look up to you for inspiration, motivation and guidance. How can you provide that?

An easy way to distinguish between ‘leading’ and ‘managing’ is in how Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis put it: “leadership is doing the right things and management is doing things right.” Others argue that ‘you lead people and you manage things (and processes)’. If you are the accountant of your company, you are probably focused on the technical aspects of your job. For instance, are the revenues captured fully? Are the costs captured and classified appropriately? Is the information provided to management real time? These activities are all fine and even necessary.

But what about your people working in the department? Are they happy and excited coming to work each morning? Do they see how what they do fits into the larger scheme of things in the whole organization? Are they excited working with other departments in synergy, rather than at cross-purposes? Do they see the direction both their department and the organization headed and how each activity works either to support or undermine the individual and collective efforts?

The former issues pertain to the technical aspects of management whilst the later issues relate to leadership.

To succeed in the short-run, we tend to focus on the technical or managerial issues. And by all means this is necessary. But it is not sufficient. To be able to sustain the short-run success into the future, you need to provide leadership to yourself and your team. What does this entail?

To succeed as a person and an entrepreneuer, you must go beyond ‘managing’ your subordinates. This will involve some core activities a few of which are:

  • Have a Vision: You must be clear about your ultimate objective(s) and the purpose for which these objectives are sought. You must also make your people be absolutely clear about the vision. Even beyond clarity, people must be committed to the vision. Please understand that being committed about a vision is not necessarily the same with being happy about it. No! Instead, commitment is about accepting to fully engage in pursuit of the actualisation of a vision.  I mean, think about the freedom fighters in Latin America and Southern Africa in the 1960s and 1970s: Do you think they were happy leaving behind their families behind and going underground and into the forests as they resist various regimes, at the risk of their freedoms and even lives? No, they were not. But they were sure they needed to do what they did and they were committed to doing it.

Luckily for you, you don’t have to go to the extremes of the freedom fighters. But like the freedom fighters, you must get the understanding, buy- and lock-in of your people to your vision. To achieve that, at least two things are necessary. First get the right people involved and second ensure that they are clear about the vision and the purpose for which it is sought.

  • Be on a Mission: Related to above is that the vision you have must create the foundation for tangible actions that will be taken on daily and nightly basis. That means going on a mission guided by principles and objectives. Everything you do should be aimed at pushing you closer to your goals. Sometimes, goals may get reviewed to changing situations and circumstances, nonetheless they must all keep you on the path to your desired objectives and purpose. The same way you are on a mission, you must attract the right people who feel the same way. The peoples should be sufficiently motivated to act in the ways you would also in similar circumstances. An organization which has people not excited about the same things and not working in tandem is failure shell waiting to break.
  • Do As You Say: Your personal integrity is key to your success as a leader. Integrity means what you think, what you say and what you do are all in congruence. Like children, your employees are great observers of what you say and what you do. They will invariably adopt what you do rather than what you say. Uniformity and consistency in your personal and corporate principles that guide your thoughts and actions is very crucial to your long-term success potentials as a leader.

Nothing will so much ease your way in getting your people to do as may be agreed upon as your own consistency in doing what you say based on agreed principles.

  • Be Technically Competent: I have mentioned earlier that most technical issues fall under realm of management. This remains so. But you need to have sufficient technical working knowledge to be able to understand as well as guide and support your people. That is not to say that you must be technically better than all your subordinates. Absolutely not! If anything, you actually need as many more brilliant people as you can have. But what is important is for you to be able to understand them, ask questions, cross-check on issues and ultimately make optimum decisions from inputs by others. Nonetheless, the more you can technically keep them on their toes, the better they will continue to be and they would take your directives, suggestions and opinions more seriously.

Build your technical knowledge continuously.

  • Hold Your Staff To Account: On a daily basis, there are many things that need to get done and someone must do them. A way to ensure that issues don’t fall through cracks and lost, is to ensure that you always agree with your staff on what needs to be done, by who and by when. Once there is a mutual agreement, you must ensure that it is met. The onus is always on the one who wishes to alter what was agreed to request for a change ahead of the deadline. Your staff must see you as a person on top of all issues. Similarly, they must see you as a person who regularly verifies what they say and what they do. Just make it clear that verification is not a trust issue. It is a part of your own responsibility as the boss, and it is always done in good faith and with best of intentions.
  • Develop a Relationship: Developing a relationship with your staff is not about dropping required formalities and boundaries. Rather it is about having a channel for emotional signals to be exchanged, interpreted and acted upon. It is about understanding each person deeper than just the surface. It is about engagement for productive purposes. Enhanced emotional intelligence is very crucial to successful leadership, quite often, over and above technical competence. This involves your personal emotional awareness as well as the emotional realities and situations of your people.
  • Communicate: Leaders must continuously communicate with their people. Sometimes it is about establishing goals. Other times it is about motivating the people or reviewing performance. For whatever reason or purpose, communication by leaders with their people must be taken serious. It should be regular, clear, concise but sufficient, and objective-driven. It could be personal, in writing or virtual. No matter the purpose and form it takes, every communication opportunity is a moment of truth that leader should seize to advance some altruistic objective.

As an entrepreneur, you need to, obviously and as mentioned, continuously improve yourself on the technical aspects of your business. Above and beyond that you must develop yourself as a leader that inspires, motivates and guides your people on a mission that everyone is committed to. When you provide leadership to your people, you don’t only get their mental buy-in, but also their emotional commitment to the mission. The former is easy to buy ‘off the shelf’ but the latter is priceless.

Feature Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash


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