Being a manager can feel like you’re on a winding road with no map. In this new Barista Magazine Online series, we go off road and talk to industry leaders about what it really takes to be an effective manager.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photo by Fabien Bazanegue
Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with leadership. I have a subscription to the Harvard Business Review, I read as much as I can about management strategies (and sometimes write about them), and I cringe when I see folks struggling with common managerial problems.
Part of the problem, I believe, is that we don’t truly understand what it takes to be an effective leader. It’s my opinion that we fail in our efforts in two primary ways: First, we simply don’t understand what qualities it takes to lead effectively. Second, those in leadership positions don’t know how to identify and foster the qualities necessary to be a good leader. Therefore, not only do we not know how to be good leaders, but we don’t know how to identify them either.
When we think of leaders, we often think of a strict set of qualities. Perhaps we think of a person who is outspoken, or bold, or efficient. But what we hope to do in this series is challenge the way we think about leadership. The leaders we need aren’t always the most obvious choices for leadership, so for this series, we talked to some of the best managers we know. We’ll have tidbits, advice, rules to follow, and rules to break coming from some of the most well-respected coffee-shop managers and leaders. We hope that this will inspire you, no matter what part of the coffee supply chain you fall under, to think about your role as a leader and encourage others to step into leadership roles, even if they don’t fit the mold.
Part of the reason I’m writing this series is because we have to reimagine what leadership looks like. I recently received an email from a friend of mine who mentioned that they were not being promoted or looked at for leadership roles because their personality doesn’t fit the mold of a typical leader. I think about this email everyday, and I wonder why that is—why do we pass up people who display competency, passion, and skill? Research would suggest that if your manager sees themselves in you, you’re more likely to be promoted. Not only does this mean we pass up potentially capable candidates, but it also means we perpetuate systems of discrimination.
As a former manager with varying degrees of success throughout my time as a leader, I think the best thing I learned is that leadership isn’t about power—it’s about empowerment. I didn’t need to have all the power to be a good leader, but instead I was responsible for ensuring my staff understood they were accountable for their own job duties and assignments, and that they knew I trusted them to make good decisions. I hope, along with many other stories, to share examples of shops and businesses where baristas and staff are empowered to take responsibility.
We’ll be publishing the first installment of the series here at Barista Mag Online shortly, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I’d like you to think of the best manager you’ve ever had. What made them effective? How did they and their actions allow you to excel? Now think of an ineffective leader—how do you feel they prevented you from being the best employee you could be? How did their leadership style affect the mood, motivation, and morale of your coworkers? If you have stories, ideas, or even just thoughts from this experiment you’d like to share, please send them to us! We look forward to hearing from you!