Leadership for Life – Are You a Hands-On Leader?

By on November 16, 2012
Time for Hard Work

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

Every once in a while, I’ll come across a resume that says the job-seeker is a “hands-on” manager or leader. The “hands-on” phrase tries to create an image of a dynamic individual, with sleeves rolled up, wading into situations and working alongside his/her front-line employees to solve important problems.

Unfortunately, the “hands-on” designation often means that the manager/leader has trouble delegating, and is often taking on responsibilities that rightfully should be handled by subordinates. I prefer leaders who describe themselves as “catalysts” (thanks to DDI for the term). Catalyst leaders inspire and coach others to do their own jobs themselves. Catalyst leaders spend more of their time coaching others and less time with their hands on someone else’s job.

When questioned about their self-descriptions, some “hands-on” leaders explain that they are simply indicating that they lead by example – a good thing, no? Leading by example is a good thing, but it’s not the same as being “hands-on.” My workmate Lou Gerst pointed out to me the other day that leading by example means showing up, being honest, communicating clearly, solving appropriate problems, making hard decisions, being open to feedback, and a host of other behaviors that support the idea that business is personal. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The next time you find yourself in the position of being a hiring manager for a leadership position, be prepared to question closely anyone who describes themselves as a “hands-on” leader. Hey, guess what? I’ve joined the 21st century and activated a Twitter account. You can follow me @bjs1218. For those of you still mired in the 20th century, I still read my email (bschapiro@stlcc.edu) and answer my phone (314-539-5329).

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

One Comment

  1. Jim Duane

    January 14, 2013 at 8:53 am

    The idea of ‘hands-on vs catalyst’ reminds me of another comparison I learned years ago. That is the difference between management and leadership. Do you have to manage a situation or can you lead through the situation while developing the new leaders.

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