Unearthing the leadership style that will work best for you

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by Heinrich van der Vyver

Think back to the best boss and the worst boss you ever had. Deciding on the leadership style you implement this year could be as simple as replicating or avoiding what they did.

But, unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

1. Are you a leader or manager or both?

Let’s start at the beginning. You’ve probably heard that being a leader is better than being a manager, right? Let’s debunk this myth right off the bat.

In 1977 Abraham Zaleznik, in the Harvard Business Review, inserted the idea into our thinking that managers don’t make good leaders; that somehow leaders are more highly evolved than managers, and that distance from the details is a badge of leadership. However, being detached and uninformed is not a sign of leadership – it is a sign of denial and avoidance.

The truth is that leadership and management are different functions or roles, yes, but they are the same people.

2. What leadership is not

Peter Senge, an American systems scientist and senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, says: “The first problem with all of the stuff that’s out there on leadership is that we haven’t got a clue what we’re talking about.”

So, let’s unpack some of the things we think leadership is, but really isn’t:

1. Leadership is for the ‘Bigwigs at the top’

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False. If we say that leaders are only those on the executive team, we rob everyone else of the chance to be a leader. Consultants at McKinsey asked people ‘What makes for a fantastic work environment?’ Permission to take risks by making decisions was in the top three. People don’t want to be given tasks, they want to make decisions. Start small, take it slow. Set the person up for success by offering coaching and business tools and information. Just like you grew in your leadership, so will your team.

2. The role of a leader is to create more followers

“Wrong,” says Ralph Nader, a US politician. “A leader’s main role is to create more leaders,” adds Jack Welch, “Your job is to touch everyone and get into their soul. Every moment you are in your office, you are useless.” Once we recognise the leadership potential in every employee, we develop people who carry the vision of the company in their souls, not just paychecks in their pockets.
If winning hearts and minds seems a little vague and daunting, start with something structured, like regular one-on-ones with the key people in your team:

  1. Set a recurring date and time, and stick to it.
  2. Go to a nearby coffee shop, or order-in good coffee.
  3. Put your phone on silent. Make eye contact. Smile.
  4. Use the time to discuss targets and tasks.
  5. Do take this time to find out who they are, what their story is, what their challenges are, and what their personal goals are.

More than anything you will learn how you can mentor or develop your team into stronger leaders. A leader is not just an employee. A leader has company buy-in. That means more productive hours, more innovation and greater job satisfaction.

3. Aloof leaders are respected leaders

Not true. The best leaders embrace a leadership style that allows them to share a compelling story about themselves; who they are, where they come from, what they stand for, what they expect. They also regularly tell the story of the business. They share the history, struggles, successes and vision, and make people feel that they have an essential role in this story.

4. The leader must know everything

Try again. This misconception is often two-fold:

  1. Leaders must know all the answers. Rather ask your team questions than pretend you know them. Don’t come across as the only one who can solve every problem. Asking questions will reveal some unexpected truths about the business. Be brave. Ask questions.
  2. Leaders are custodians of all the information. Sharing information with the team about the business, about challenges and successes, and project statuses is a vital key in creating a contributing, vibrant culture. If you hold all the cards, what happens when you’re not available? We like QuickEasy BOS business software for this as it keeps everyone in the company connected in real time, from management to machine worker, from sales rep to production manager. Plus, it gives management vital information to better steer the ship.

Here’s to discovering and growing in your true, natural leadership style for happier, more productive teams.