The acid test of leadership. What happens when the manager isn’t there?

When the cat’s away do the mice play? Do people retreat and say they can’t do things or refrain from making simple decisions because the boss isn’t there? Do people spend extra time looking to ‘cover their backsides’? (For which read, take no action that could display any responsibility).

Or does life carry on as normal?

Who steps up to the plate? Who understands what needs to happen and how the manager wants things to work? Are people happy to make simple decisions because they’re empowered and there’s absolutely no sense of fear associated?

Which one of those teams is going to be most efficient? Most enjoyable to work in? Most profitable.


It’s good if the manager’s not there all the time

If everyone knows their role, the contribution they bring , the culture and what’s important, the manager not being there is not a problem.

And you as the manager not being there is good.

You need time to do other things. To consider future challenges. To report back. You’ll want some holiday at some point (and be able to relax whilst taking it). And most importantly – one day you’re not going to be there at all. You might want to be promoted, retire or sell the business. If this can’t be done easily your value has diminished considerably.


What this test says about how good you are as a manager and a leader

If your team don’t know how to work brilliantly without you it says you’re not leading. It says you’re likely to be micro-managing. It probably shows you lack trust or that you don’t believe anyone else could possibly be as good as you. It says you’re not helping your staff to see the bigger picture or you’re not giving them clear enough instruction. Do you even know what effective delegation is?

If things go wrong as soon as you walk away it’s almost certainly your weak leadership which has allowed it to happen.

But all is never lost….

Many highly skilled individuals who move into management confuse their technical ability with their leadership skills. Deciding to become as good at leadership as you are at the technical side of your role is a choice and an important one. It takes skill and courage but it can be learned and honed.


So when are you next away?

If you’re a manager and you’re wondering how good your leadership skills are; walk away for a bit. Or at least start preparing to. It’ll pay dividends.