Sometimes I think we overcomplicate leadership. We create expectations for ourselves and others that can overwhelm even the best of us. Some people seek higher degrees or certifications, others participate in workshops and conferences focused on management and leadership development. Why do we do this? It’s all in the pursuit of wanting to be a better leader.
At Marco’s Leadership Conference last week, I shared my perspective with over 100 of our managers. The art of leading is a pretty simple equation: People + Money = Leadership (P+M=L).
We need to be effective at managing both people and money. Most of us are stronger at one more than the other, and that’s OK. Both of these skills can be learned, improved upon or augmented by others.
This relates to everything from staffing to training to promoting to managing conflict and client relations. Simply put, it means playing well with others.
This can feel like an alphabet soup of terms from revenue to EBITDA to budgets to compensation and benefits. You don’t have to have a finance degree, but you do need to know how to count.
IMPROVING YOUR SKILLS
Know where you are strong and weak on these two key components and take steps to improve your skills. Here are a few ways for each:
This component is actually easier to learn than the people part. Not everyone is naturally good at the numbers – or will love them. I’ve never had anyone tell me they know the numbers too well. Everyone can sharpen their skills to be effective in leadership. Here’s how:
- Ask for one-on-one coaching from someone that knows the numbers—inside or outside of your organization. Most people will be happy to do this.
- Present the numbers at your staff meetings and you’ll naturally get more comfortable.
- Join a nonprofit board of directors, where fiduciary responsibilities are a natural part of the process.
- Take a finance class at a local technical college or university.
- Help develop and participate in a financial acumen class in your organization to help others learn the numbers, too.
I wasn’t a numbers guy, but I had to become one. Early on, I learned from Gary Marsden, my predecessor and co-founder of Marco, and I have done the same for others. There are plenty of people who know the numbers. Seek them out so you can understand them better.
Effective leaders have a knack for understanding people. That’s not a skill that comes naturally to everyone and is much harder to learn. It will take more time and intention:
- Know yourself so you can understand others better (self-awareness)
- Expand your circle of influence to leverage a broader network
- Listen actively – hear what’s not being said
- Be responsive – provide timely follow-up
- Give credit – don’t take it
- Address conflict rather than avoid it
- Conduct meetings that people want to be a part of
- Execute – do what you say you’re going to do
- Hold others accountable – be accountable yourself
If you’re a leader, you’ve already done a lot of things right to get where you are. Stay focused on the people and the money. Remember, you need to be good at both. Don’t overcomplicate it. If you play well with others and know how to count, you’ll have the foundation to be a strong leader.