Blog Post

Directors, Here's How to Lead the Leaders

Carol Anderson

Founder, Anderson Performance Partners

When climbing the corporate ladder in a larger organization, director is an aspirational title. It might mean a bigger office, a bonus, stock eligibility and the responsibility of leading those who lead. While managers typically lead individual contributors, directors assume the role of leading the leaders—this is different.

It is the director-level in an organization that sets the standard for engagement and commitment. As a director, you'll have to balance the needs of the organization, the division and the individual. It's also up to you to set the tone for communication—up, down and across. You'll need to understand that everything in an organization happens through people, and that people are guided by leadership. And you must acknowledge that guidance means setting clear expectations, measuring results and creating an environment of continuous learning.

Directors, it's crucial to realize the enormity of your new role. It is a big change, but not always recognized as such. Here are three key wake up calls.

1) You Are the Face and Mouth of the Organization

What you say isn't just your words anymore. Employees will listen, but they will watch more closely. You are the single most important ingredient in the organization's culture. If your words don't mirror the organization's aspirational values, you will cause confusion, wasted time and ultimately cynicism.

2) You Can Shape Your Organization's Image

The larger the organization, the more difficult it is to make organizational-level decisions that are good for everyone. The perception of unfairness will become toxic if allowed to fester. As a director, you have the benefit of a 30,000-foot insight into why the decision was made, as well as the unique view of how the decision will impact your employees.

Make it a point to understand the "why" and communicate it in a way that connects your employees to the organization as a whole. After all, the health of the organization is paramount to everyone; without it, jobs may be at risk.

3) You'll Have to Teach Managers How to Lead

Here's the thing. New managers are taught (or not) the basics of Management 101. They are not taught how to lead; that's your job.

Develop trust across your division. Ask employees about what they need and measure their engagement and commitment. Share your observations with managers, not in the form of criticism, but as a learning tool. A poor work climate can be turned around with attention to the needs of the employees.

Teach your managers the importance of listening. Then teach them how to respond. Help them understand that they don't have to acquiesce to every employee's wants, but that they do need to acknowledge them and help the employees understand the "why."

Reaching the pinnacle of organizational success by becoming a director is exciting, but you're not in Kansas anymore. The director role has a huge impact on the engagement of the workforce. By developing their front line managers, they can influence retention, generate commitment and move the organization forward.

Photo: Creative Commons

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