Why Leaders Must Be Teachers, Not Just Managers

Posted on Aug 7th 2018


Why Leaders Must Be Teachers, Not Just Managers

As the co-founder of Romp n’ Roll, I have learned that leading a successful business often requires balancing the scale between managing and teaching.

The management side of the scale is very important. Through day-to-day management, leaders preserve processes, resolve problems, and maintain order.

The teaching side of the leadership scale is just as important. Possibly even more so. As teachers, leaders cultivate talent. By making long-term investments into developing individual team members, their business will ultimately succeed as well.

I know first-hand that finding the time to switch hats from manager to teacher isn’t always easy. It is vitally important, however, for leaders to recognize and act upon teachable moments when they occur.

Here’s why:

Teaching Motivates People

It can be hard to elevate an employee’s view of their personal and professional potential in a typical manager/employee relationship.

Managers can be results-driven, and employees can get stuck doing things a certain way in order to satisfy their demands. This dynamic can sometimes be hard to rise above.

By taking time to share insights, experiences, and building a mutual trust, leaders can inspire their employees. In these moments, leaders switch from measuring, tracking, and monitoring performance, to motivating the employee personally and professionally.

Mentoring the person helps them see a better version of themselves and raises their own commitment to the work they do.

Teaching Shares Vision

As any great leader will tell you, when employees share the company’s vision, they help bring it to fruition.

When leaders are teaching rather than managing an employee, there is an opportunity to relate on a deeper level. At that moment the employee is more open and receptive. The leader will be able to help them personally connect with the values and vision of the company.

Because of this deeper alignment, employees will truly understand their role in helping to make the company vision a reality.

Team Building

When a leader is teaching an employee, they can bond in a way that isn’t possible during typical manager/employee interactions.

This personal attention does not go unnoticed.

Any employee appreciates it when their boss takes time out of their day to help them out. This appreciation usually leads to a tighter bond. If the leader makes this connection with all their employees, the entire team is strengthened.

More Natural Feedback

Sometimes, giving an employee feedback can be awkward for both the leader and the team member. Especially if it’s critical. It can be one of the least favorite responsibilities a leader has.

While most employees like to know how they are doing, a formal review can make them uncomfortable. The employee can be put on the defensive as well, ultimately rejecting the feedback.

In a teaching situation, the leader has a more natural way to show an employee how to improve something. Teaching is a vehicle through which critical feedback can be reframed, accepted, and ultimately, put into action.

Attention and Retention

People are shown or told how to do something on the job in a variety ways. Some may learn by watching video. Others may hear about it from a co-worker. Still more may read it in a memo. These are all reasonable ways to learn something.

That same training, however, will be much more effective when it’s communicated one-on-one from leader to employee.

Employees will be more attentive and they’re also more likely to retain the information if it’s being taught by their boss.

Great leaders look for organic teachable moments, and also take time to create these golden opportunities with team members.

By balancing managing with teaching, these leaders create an engaged and motivated workforce that is always learning and improving.

Learn 5 Ways Leadership is Different in Small Companies.

Michael Barnett

Michael Barnett is the Co-Founder and CEO of Romp n' Roll. In addition to leading the Romp n' Roll management team, Michael is an active member of the International Franchise Association, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and serves on the Board of Directors for Connor's Heroes and Juniata College Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. He and his wife, Babz, were featured on the first season of ABC-TV's Shark Tank.