To Lead is to Teach

As a leader, it’s important to understand how much your time is worth and how to put that time to best use. Too many leaders allow themselves to get bogged down in the day-to-day operations of their companies and waste time completing tasks that could be passed along to others.

Effective leaders devote the majority of their time to developing their companies’ long-term strategy and teaching their employees in order to build the capacity of their teams. A teaching culture leads to greater innovation, larger profits, and happier employees, and sound leadership keeps a company moving toward future growth.

Leading vs. Managing

True leaders are the people who set the long-term vision for their companies. They also determine the culture of the organizations they lead. Leaders develop strategies for future growth and inspire their teams to work toward a common goal. At the end of the day, they ask, “Why?”

Managers, on the other hand, are the people with their boots on the ground. They create systems and processes that allow the company to move forward. They execute on the leader’s vision by instituting processes and creating order out of chaos. A manager asks “How?” and “When?”

Too often, leaders spend their time developing processes and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company when they should have their eyes on the road, working to develop strategies for long-term growth.

Teaching vs. Doing

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Another function of leadership is developing the skill sets of employees to enable them to complete tasks independently. Employees might get stuck in an attempt to travel from A to B, so it’s the leader’s job to show her employees the why and the how.

Many years ago, I was working as an analytical chemist on a group of samples nearing its expiration date. When I couldn’t get my PID detector to cooperate, I desperately went to my director for help. He told me I had to figure it out myself. I was infuriated at his unwillingness to help, but I refocused my efforts and solved the problem on my own within an hour. As it turned out, I didn’t need any handholding to fix the issue; I just needed the confidence and the push to do it myself, and my director gave me both. That’s the power of leading by teaching.

There are as many teaching styles as there are teachers, but the end goal should always be the same: to instill as much independence in employees as possible. Give them every opportunity to learn, and when it comes down to solving a problem, let them work through it. You’ll know if you need to step in. This will create capable, critically-thinking employees who will thrive in the learning environment you’ve made for them.

How Leading and Teaching Affect Your Business

To grow a business, the leader cannot waste his time managing and doing. There are huge implications if a leader doesn’t have the time to build long-term strategy or develop the skills of his team members.

Devoting adequate time to leading and teaching builds capacity in your organization, rather than limiting it. Teaching allows the company leader to pass the baton to other employees for smaller tasks; when this happens, the leader frees up more time for charting where the business is going next. This also creates an environment where people feel empowered to innovate and find a better way to do things. Giving employees the freedom to solve the problems of the organization can yield amazing results.

Action Steps for Leading and Teaching

Don’t know where to start? Here are some simple steps for prioritizing true leadership functions:

1      Analyze your time: Determine if you’re primarily leading, managing, teaching, or doing by honestly assessing how you spend your time.

2      Set the vision: Can you articulate your company’s vision? If not, put pen to paper and begin crafting one. Here’s a great article on how to create your company’s vision.

3      When tempted to do, teach: Are you spending time doing something that you could teach someone else to do? When tempted to do, stop yourself and use it as an opportunity to teach.

4      Make sure you’re learning: Make learning every day a priority. What are you reading? Ask questions, and be intellectually curious.

If you want your business to grow, you need to be a leader and teacher. You need to transition from managing and doing on a daily basis to leading and teaching. It’s a difficult transition to make, but doing so will put your company in a position to innovate, grow, and succeed.

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