“What’s the difference between a boss and a leader? A boss says ‘Go!’ and a leader says ‘Let’s go!’” — E.M. Kelly
True leadership is a balance between taking charge and letting go. Not everyone has a natural instinct for it, and even a born leader sometimes needd help softening their approach or backing off when someone else can do the job.
Most financial advisors are independent self-starters who don’t give much thought to leadership. Their idea of success is selling, not supervising staff. “Lone Ranger” types, they excel at building relationships, meeting with clients and prospecting. (Or at least they’re supposed to!)
In today’s world, working alone is not the best approach to business. No one person can keep up with the regulatory demands, specialization and paperwork faced by today’s advisors. Nowadays, working as a team really isn’t a choice–it’s an absolute necessity.
So how do you provide the right kind of leadership to get the most from your team? Many advisors fall into 1 of 2 camps: They either neglect their supervisory obligations or overdo it by getting too involved. (Both approaches lead to frustration.) Too few advisors stop and think about their behavior to know if they are ignoring, micromanaging or truly leading their staff.
As a consultant, I have learned that leadership means different things to different people. I identify leaders by their actions and attributes. True leaders possess a clear vision of the future; insist on regular (and honest) communication; emphasize goals; and hold people accountable–all while providing direction and motivation.
Think about your own leadership style. Ask yourself, “Why would someone want to work with me?” Most of my clients would list the obvious reasons–i.e., a competitive salary, generous benefits, nice office, etc. While those things are important, the qualities I am suggesting go far beyond that.
What if people want to work with you because you are respectful, flexible, visionary and clear? What if they want a boss who has faith in their abilities and potential? What if they want a leader who makes them feel part of something interesting and important?
To be a good leader, you need to make your expectations clear so your team can meet your high standards. It is also important to make everyone feel involved in the business. This means employing teamwork fundamentals such as:
Communicating your vision of the future.
Establishing accountability and consequences.
Emphasizing personal initiative.
Using positive reinforcement.
The first teamwork fundamental involves communication. All advisors communicate to some degree, but few talk to their employees in a meaningful way about the company’s future and the employees’ role in it. Communicating a clear vision of the future is an essential part of leadership.
When you sit down to plan the next year–or the next 5 years–it’s to everyone’s advantage to include your team. Brainstorming as a group allows employees to feel part of the business and believe in future opportunities. Your team has valuable insights and capabilities that will allow you to do what you do best. When you’re free to sell–remember, that’s your strength–your business can achieve its goals.
How do you get meaningful input from your employees? Simply ask. Make it clear that the company vision is not a top-down exercise. Everyone on the team plays an important role.