Three Questions About Managerial Leadership

When facilitating development programs for managerial leaders, we like to encourage the following reflection(1):

Put yourself in your subordinates’ shoes and tell me if they can adequately answer these three questions:

  1. What should I be doing?
  2. How am I doing?
  3. What is my future?

Managerial leaders are held to account for the standard of leadership they provide to their teams. If people know how to answer these questions above, we have a good indication that they are indeed receiving quality leadership.

The first question, “What should I be doing?”, makes us think about the clarity of roles, the assignment of tasks, the designation and distribution of authorities, and the nature of the relationships between roles/positions in the hierarchical structure (both vertically and laterally).

If you are a manager, be careful not to abdicate responsibility for directing your team to the work you have decided is important. Listening to perspectives is critically important but deciding and directing is your accountability.

Balance, as always, is very important. There must be enough “space” for people to use their own judgment to decide how to perform their duties, but not so much space that they do not even know where to start.

The second question, “How am I doing?”, brings us back to review, recognition, and reward. Again, something that is in the hands of the managerial leader, who must draw on the authority vested in the position they hold to do this effectively.

Review entails providing supervision and seeing the team’s work within a larger context, so that the manager knows when to redirect efforts and review priorities.

Recognition and reward, contrary to what many people think, are not necessarily limited to the monetary element of the work relationship. Presenting a bigger challenge, giving public recognition / praise / transparent feedback, being invited to an important meeting… these are all examples of how to let people know how they are doing. And they don’t cost anything.

The third question, “What is my future?”, takes us back to career, development, and succession systems. But not only that. People need to understand the organisation’s plans and strategy to determine whether they are aligned with the future vision.

As we move up the hierarchy, we run the risk of mistakenly thinking that people down the pyramid don’t need to know about broader issues to do their jobs. This is a mistake.

The human being, unlike other living beings, anticipates and makes plans for the future, albeit in different time horizons. Depriving people the opportunity to see the paths they and the organisation can take is a failure to feed their dreams and ambitions.

And what about you as a manager? Do you have answers to these three questions?

Note: (1)Inspired by Systems Leadership (Ian MacDonald, our colleague at Bioss International, et all)

© 2022 BIOSS ™. All Rights Reserved.

Rafael Beran Bruno (MD) Instituto Pieron (Bioss Brazil)