Leadership qualities are a prerequisite for any manager. But what does this mean in terms of managerial practices? Alain Boudreault, Vice President of Programming and Innovation at the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal provides some explanations, following the Intensive Leadership Program he recently took at the Institute of Leadership in Management.
Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) – What experience do you have as a manager?
Alain Boudreault (A.B.) – At the Chamber, I have held two executive positions and one senior executive position. My career path encompasses fifteen years in management, managing groups of three to more than ten people. My duties have often related to the creation of new departments and new services provided to the business community.
CCMM – Why did you take the Intensive Leadership Program?
A.B. – As a manager, I wanted to hone my skills. I was thinking about doing an executive MBA. But I was hesitant given the investment required, especially in terms of time. The Institute of Leadership in Management was one of my options. The programs are short, spread out over two business days and a Saturday. The establishment also has a good reputation. I first got the Certification in Leadership and Management, and then, once that was complete, I was able to start the very first session of the Intensive Leadership Program, which is focused on managing one’s team.
CCMM – What did you like about the program?
A.B. – First of all, the structure, which is made up of theoretical components and case studies carried out in teams. The theory put an emphasis on the defining feature of today’s management style: a very situational type of management, which requires the manager to adapt both to events and to individuals.
Secondly, the understanding of the subject matter. The program showed us that there isn’t just one form of management. There are broad principles. As a manager, you must ask yourself where you stand on a personal level, as an individual, in relation to these broad principles. Which means that you’ve got to know yourself very well. The participants are led to question themselves, to try to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and why certain situations generate certain reactions from them. Is your personality profile that of an anxious person? Passionate? Narcissistic? These aspects come into play when managing a team.
And third, the lecturers. For example, it’s not every day you have the chance to speak to a former premier of Québec.
“The defining feature of today’s management style: a very situational type of management, which requires the manager to adapt both to events and to individuals.”
CCMM – What are the three qualities of a good leader as explained in the program?
A.B. – The first is one we’ve already talked about: knowing yourself. In terms of situational management, this means having the ability to step back and observe your emotions and those of others, to understand them, and to adapt your form of personal leadership in such a way as to avoid having these emotions dominate your professional relationships. This quality was implicit in all aspects of the training.
The second is: surrounding yourself with people who are just as strong as you are, and often even better than yourself. The manager must put together a team of talents, each of whom is competent in his or her field, to help meet the objectives.
The third is: reaching out. In other words, on the one hand, knowing how to communicate with each member of your team. You must make sure to treat people around you as entities in their own right. The way to do this is to adapt according to each profile. On the other hand, the manager must also be able to mobilize the team by bringing an inspiring vision of the projects to be realized to the heart of the team… Explaining where you want to take the organization and why you need each team member to help reach the goal. The aim is to become fulfilled as a team but also as individuals.
CCMM – What aspects of leadership were demystified for you through the program?
A.B. – There are two I can mention.
The famous line: “My door is always open.” Honestly, I had a hard time saying it when there were times I wasn’t available for my team because I needed to concentrate or because I was often in meetings outside the office…
The open door policy, for a manager, in fact means being able to open up to others—to achieve this, you need to know yourself well, as we previously explained, and then go open other people’s doors. You can’t necessarily expect people to come see you to tell you how they feel. You need to go get them. It’s also up to the manager to know how to go about doing this. Showing one’s own fragility to employees is one way of doing it.
Playing politics within an organization. This is considered taboo in the work environment because it’s often perceived in a negative way. And yet, it is necessary when it’s used in the interests of the organization. In fact, the political game is often played in a good way within organizations. Unfortunately, since it can’t be referred to by name, it can’t be discussed and be made part of a management team’s progress. We experience it, we do it innately, but we’ll call it “maintaining good relations” or “being a good team player,” when the more appropriate term would be “being a good political player.”
To understand politics, you need to pin down the interests of each of the other departments in the organization. This comes down to questioning the motives of your management colleagues and understanding their networks.
CCMM – One final bit of advice?
A.B. – Do not make any presumptions about the way in which you are perceived by your colleagues, your superiors, or your team. You might think you are respected, or perhaps undervalued… but that might not be the case. You have to regularly check on this perception by staying informed.
Alain Boudreault’s career, in brief:
- - 1990s: Joined the Chamber. Held various positions before becoming IT Coordinator.
- - 2004: Director of Information Technology.
Very clearly defined scope.
- - 2009: Organizational change, with the merger of the IT and Marketing departments.
Alain becomes the director of this new department.
Team of about a dozen people; each with very different profiles and all very versatile.
- - 2014: Organizational change, with the creation of the new Programming and Innovation Department.
Alain becomes the Vice President of this new department.
Team of about ten people.
New scope, to be defined.
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