4 ways to turn managers into leaders

June 27, 2024 By    

Last month, we discussed helping managers become leaders and a few of the differences between the two roles.

Here are four key areas that I believe can help identify paths for understanding, growth and development from a manager into a leader.

1. Look at the bigger picture.

It’s human nature to focus on tasks and situations that are directly in front of us. We know what needs to be done and the steps that we need to take to get them accomplished. We know what our resources and limitations may be, but do we know what’s on the other side of the horizon? The long-range goal of the organization? Looking further across the timeline, what is the direction of the propane industry? What are you working toward, and what is the end goal? Is there an end goal?

Let’s say that you’re a manager at a propane marketer. You know that you’re supposed to service your customers and take on new business to grow your operation and do it profitably. But how many new customers are you expected to gain? What does successful profitability look like on your P&L reports? How are you to understand that your efforts and stress and long hours are taking you in the right direction? The answer can be quite simple … ask! Talk with your supervisor or company leader. What’s their long-range company vision for the future? Maybe it’s 100 new customers. Potentially it’s an increased margin for the next 12 months. Perhaps it’s expanding into a new area that you are not currently servicing. Whatever that vision is, know it. Understand it. That then becomes the yardstick that you should measure all your efforts against.

2. Understand that everyone on your team is different.

Aaron Huizenga


We are all individuals from different backgrounds, educations, experiences and home lives. We all have similarities and common goals, like belonging to the same organization, appreciation and income. But each of us will have our own strengths and shortcomings. Your task as a manager and as a leader is to make sure that you have the right assembly of individuals on your team and that you have them in the exact right spot if you want to be able to achieve your goals.

Let’s take Mike, for example. This guy can deliver more propane than anyone else at his location. I mean, this guy is a superhero in a bobtail. No one can out-deliver him, nor would he let them. Great! Then let’s move him into a bigger role, like being the lead service technician, right? Most likely not. It may not be his skill set; he may not be detail-oriented enough to complete all the delicate safety testing necessary to ensure a safe system. Right person, in the right position.

3. Be transparent with intent and communication.

You can be the best planner, doer and manager/leader in your marketplace, but if no one else knows about those plans and visions, you’ll be reduced to carrying out your tasks and successes alone. Communication, the sharing of information and the ability to have everyone on your team understand and see what you are seeing as the finish line, the goal, is the single greatest tool that you can leverage.

Effective communication will multiply your influence exponentially as your team becomes an extension of your vision. If we all know where you want us to go and what the direction is on the road to success, then we can all take up our roles in that plan to help get us all there together. And it starts with communication. Group meetings to discuss; email or group text updates; weekly all-hands phone calls; or a Monday conversation around the water cooler. Whatever medium that works best for you doesn’t really matter, as long as you do it. Then do it consistently.

4. Delegate.

You’re not going to get there alone. No matter how hard you work, how much you produce or how much easier you think it may be to “just do it myself,” you aren’t going to make it without others around you to help shoulder that burden. You have to give some, if not most, of it away. Yes, you’ll still be responsible for the outcome of the team, but you need to give some of your tasks away to others.

If you can, two things will happen. First, you’ll entrust others to help carry out your plans, you’ll help them grow and expand in their career, and buy in more to the team. Second, you’ll free up time in your life to do more of the other items. Vision casting, planning, thinking forward and communicating. “But if someone else is doing what I was doing, then what am I going to do?” is something you may ask yourself. To that question I would answer, “Don’t worry about that.” There will always be more somethings to fill that space. Maybe it’s reading an article like this one. Or reviewing meeting notes or specs for a particular project. Conversing with a fellow teammate, expanding your knowledge of a certain subject or talking with one of your best customers. Whatever it may be, your time will get filled back up, trust me.

Let’s work on your upgrade.

Aaron Huizenga is East Division manager for Lakes Gas in Wisconsin. Reach him at ahuizenga@lakesgas.com.

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