Every team has a leader, either officially or otherwise. We typically think of a leader as one who is out front like an officer leading his unit into war, a businessperson at the end of a meeting table or a conductor with an orchestra. Though not every influential person is out front, this is likely what we imagine and for good reason. A team will take comfort seeing the one with control over our livelihoods at the head of the pack. Or else, we start to wonder where that person is and get paranoid with all sorts of frightful thoughts.
In college, I was required to take a music appreciation class. I reluctantly attended, after all, what were you going to teach me about AC/DC or Billy Idol I didn’t already know? To my surprise, I actually got a lot out of the class. Though I rarely listen to Classic Music these days, I did learn a respect for other genres. Perhaps the most was gained for an orchestra and all the tireless work that group goes through to make a concert seem effortless. One nagging question I had for years before the class was; what instrument does the conductor play? If the musicians know what they’re doing, why do they need that guy? AC/DC didn’t need a conductor.
I asked the professor to shed some light on the issue. He stated a conductor is also a composer and will many times put his own spin on a classic piece. Although he cannot play all the instruments, he knows HOW each should sound. If there is a problem, the conductor can devote time working with the musician to figuring out what is wrong. There are many such things that go on behind the scenes, but when it is “go time”, the orchestra and the audience expect to see him there.
In a lot of ways, that is how it is in business. The CEO may not have all the answers or be the smartest person in the room, but she is expected to lead nonetheless. Like a conductor who cannot play the tuba, a leader may not be someone who has come up through the ranks of the technicians (accountants, maintenance and IT people) they lead. However, it is very important the leader demonstrate her abilities. Members of a team are always giong to ask; “How is my job easier or more difficult with her around?” It’s a fair question and one that all bosses must answer. Otherwise the team will suffer from trust issues.
If the president of an engineer firm has a civil engineering degree and spent the past couple of decades working on high profile projects, that president will easily gain the confidence of rest of the firm. Otherwise, management must go another route to win the trust of everyone. Years ago, medical centers were run by the smartest doctor on staff. Now, many hospital administrators in the 21st century do not come from medical backgrounds. So, they are expected to show expertise in being up to date with procedures, keeping the facility out of lawsuits, confirming people are properly trained, making the important decisions and sharing the overall vision of the hospital with its people. NOT performing open heart surgery.
I do know one hospital administrator who has her RN, but she also seems to display her managerial prowess as well. She’s very approachable and even takes lunch with patients. And that is the point. A leader MUST SHOW the team they are worthy of the leadership position. Where there is no trust in the leader, there is paranoia among the team. Position power is short lived and “because I told you so” just doesn’t cut it in today’s world.