How good managers can become great leaders

The world needs a new generation of business leaders to take charge. The young men and women who are driven to be the best leaders in their respective fields and who are able to go beyond the expected standards of quality are those who are capable of pushing the boundaries and encouraging those around them to achieve personal bests in all that they do.

Whether they are born or made, a great business leader understands that his or her job is about more than delegating workloads, managing workplace assets and securing solid returns on investments. They also have to inspire their colleagues and maintain a workplace ethos that encourages them to be passionate and committed in all that they do, thereby pushing the company to spectacular heights.

“You don’t have to hold a position to be a leader.” – Henry Ford

Business leaders are not necessarily managers, per se, but they are people willing to stand at the front and develop a business’s vision through critical planning and the upholding of high quality standards.

In a recent study that encompassed research from across the UK and the United States, Thales Learning & Development discovered that some 56% of corporate failures can be directly linked to poor management.

Poor management and subsequent failures deriving from it can be put down to a number of factors. Lack of experience and training is a key aspect here, because it rarely works out if an employee is promoted to a managerial position without having had any training or experience of managing or leading others in the past. The lack of a clear vision or set of goals to be achieved is another harmful factor, because without that sort of guidance a manager does not know what the end result is supposed to be and therefore cannot lead his or her team effectively.

How, then, can a good manager become a great leader?


In a world where there are thousands of people only too happy to dish out business-based wisdom, both good and bad, it’s worth choosing the advice you listen to carefully. These principles, applicable to any industry in any country and from some of the most admired businessmen in history, should set managers on the right path.

Outlining your vision

“I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.” – Mark Zuckerberg

The most effective leaders set out their vision clearly at the start and then tailor objectives and actions to ensure that they are in line with ultimate goal at every stage. Setting a team a set of tangible goals (whether they’re every day or project-specific) that can be easily monitored will go a long way towards fostering success. Start by doing the easy things first – if a difficult or complicated project comes up, break it down into manageable chunks and tackle it that way. This way, each process can be aligned with the overall vision and goal so that every team member is motivated and knows what is expected of them.

Embracing critical planning

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” – Warren Buffett

It’s impossible to lead a team or company and always maintain a risk-averse approach, but planning ahead and anticipating potential issues or problems can be the key to minimizing disruption. Communication is vital in order to avoid mix-ups and confusion in the meeting of goals, as is the use of data, key performance indicators and the management of expectations to assign tasks to the right team members.

Assembling the right team

“To be successful, you have to be out there, you have to hit the ground running, and if you have a good team round you and more than a fair share of luck, you might make something happen.” – Richard Branson

You can’t do everything yourself, and you shouldn’t be expected to. If you hire team members whose strengths are varied and meet the needs you have identified, you will be able to cover a lot of bases and ensure that no job is too difficult to complete. Once new team members are settled in and aligned to the core values and vision that you have developed and implemented, they will quickly become key to achieving your objectives.

Encouraging learning and development

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

You should be learning and developing your own skillset all the time, but also ensuring that the same is happening throughout your team and the business as a whole. In addition to encouraging them to attend training courses and other organised development programmes, you can help by offering feedback if mistakes are made or certain aspects of their job could be worked on, offset by praise when they do well. As long as the feedback is constructive and not wilfully negative, it can have an extremely positive effect on the individual and the team as a whole by bringing them together and making them more motivated.

Stoking passion

“The key is to listen to your heart and let it carry you in the direction of your dreams. I’ve learned that it’s possible to set your sights high and achieve your dreams…each day that you’re moving toward your dreams without compromising who you are, you’re winning.” – Michael Dell

One of the best ways of driving your team to new heights is to stoke their passion and motivation with regard to the work they are doing. If they don’t care about their job, they won’t go the extra mile to ensure that their jobs are completed to an exceptional standard. Find out what makes each member of your team tick and try to tap into that to produce even more impressive results.

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“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs

Inspire your colleagues to always strive for what is just out of reach and to always be looking towards the next achievement or goal completion which they know will be rewarded. Your ambition is the only ambition that matters – don’t align yourself to what you think is good enough or what your competitors are doing. Make sure that your team knows that the sky is the limit, and the results will follow.

Written by Nichola Batley. Having worked in the HR and consulting business for over 20 years, Nichola now has a role as head of leadership and management capability at Thales. There Nichola’s role is to ensure that all services offered are relevant and current in relation to the current market needs. Nichola’s profile –

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