Effective management and leadership are vital in these times of complexity and fast change in organizations.

But while good management, as it has been defined in the past, is critically important in the day-to-day operation of an organization, it is not enough to help an organization move towards a vision. In the past, managers have been taught to focus on setting goals, planning, motivating employees, and coaching. While all of these activities are important, they are not enough to help managers also be leaders of change.

Effective management and leadership are vital in these times of complexity and fast change in organizations.

1.Know yourself

Leaders understand themselves and what they offer to the organization. Each leader has a distinctive, personal style, and each leader recognizes that they will make changes in a way that reflects this style. Leaders who know themselves are able to assess themselves realistically and are comfortable talking about their limitations, as well as their strengths. Self-aware leaders know that feedback is essential to their development, and they are eager to receive constructive criticism. (Golman)

2. Know the organization

A leader's way of leading should be flexible and adaptable to the context and culture of the organization. A single, constant style of leadership would not be effective in all organizations: different organizations require different approaches to leadership.

At MIT, your organization could be the Institute-wide organization, your specific department, or your team within your department. Consequently, there are numerous sub-cultures at MIT within the bigger, Institute-wide culture. Effective managers and leaders understand the context and culture of the different organizations within the larger organization. They then use the strengths of the organizational culture in their efforts to implement change.

To understand an organization’s culture, think about the following:

  • How do things truly get done in the organization?
  • Who have been successful leaders of the organization in the past?
  • Why were they successful?
  • What has the organization been successful for in the past?
  • If you were to ask someone who has worked in the organization for a long time about why things are the way they are, what would they say?

Answering these questions should give you some insight into the underlying assumptions and values that drive your organization’s culture.

3. Build relationships

Managers who lead effectively pay attention to the interpersonal dimensions of their role as manager and as leader. As a manager, they coach their employees to plan, set goals, and monitor performance (to learn more about coaching, see our article "What is Coaching?"). As a leader, they collaborate and influence people at all levels of the organization, they communicate assertively and effectively across the organization, and they are empathetic to others, regardless of position or authority.

People who effectively build relationships often weave the following communication techniques into their everyday conversations:

  • They ask others questions to learn more about what they really feel or believe (inquiring before advocating)
  • They repeat others’ comments as they hear them without adding their own ideas (allowing the other person to feel they were heard)
  • They understand another person’s point of view from that person’s perspective, not from their own perspective

It is critically important that managers who are leaders are able to build credible, trusting relationships with people in their own group and with others across the organization.

Because of the complex range of emotions associated with change (fear, resistance, denial), managers who are leaders must be credible and trusted by the people they manage and lead if they are to be successful in leading change.


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