What Kids, Dogs, and Employees Have In Common and Why You Need to Pivot!
Part 1 in a 2 part series
by Doni Landefeld, Ph.D.
A friend and musician colleague who is also an animal behaviorist recently attended a party at my house. He mentioned how my dog was a bit confused when I gave her a few options to respond to one of my commands; as a result, my dog didn’t behaviorally respond as favorably as possible. I pondered this situation and realized that if I had been in the workplace, I likely wouldn’t have given options to an employee had I wanted a very specific outcome (behavior). And this parallel can also extend to kids and how we parent. Kids, dogs, and employees all crave direction and guidance for their optimal success. It begins to get a little sticky however, to understand the two basic types of direction – Leading vs. Managing and how each will motivate your followers to get desired results. There are many distinctions between leadership and management and depending upon your position and those within your organization, it will be necessary to pivot between these two foundations. Let’s get clear on these distinctions. This month we will dissect Leadership and leave you with 6 common leadership styles and an optional download that covers the 4 must-have qualities for all impactful leaders. Next month, in part two, we’ll dissect management and give you a tool to help determine your level of management proficiency. So first, let’s lead onward with Leadership!
Some synonyms and descriptors for leaders and leadership include Transformational (vs. Transactional), Pull (vs. push), Big Picture, Excite, Vision, Long-term, Heart-centered, Goal Oriented, Inspire, Influence, Align, Uses “We” and “Let’s” statements (vs. Uses “I” or “Do” statements), Innovate. Leadership is getting your people excited to do what you want. As a coach, which is also a style of leading, it is getting people to achieve their potential by helping them to leverage strengths, develop some new skills, and overcome obstacles by providing support, strategy and facilitating accountability. There are as many definitions of leadership as individuals who have attempted to define the concept. My simple definition of leadership is giving of ourselves to bring out the best in others to achieve the desired goal. Sometimes it can take a while to discover the appropriate balance of giving to extract exactly what you want from your followers. In many cases, it involves serving others as this motivates, shows some vulnerability (which motivates by sharing your authentic and sincere “human-ness”) and then motivates them even more. Most definitions of leadership reflect an assumption that there is some level of influence exerted over one or more people to guide, provide structure and strategy, enhance relationships and facilitate activities. The responsibilities are endless and require ongoing development to remain competitive and sustainable in our ever-changing world that is now leaning more toward experiences than information.
Despite the numerous definitions of leadership, there’s good news in simplifying styles into six different categories, especially as they apply emotional intelligence skills. For those of you who know the author even a little bit, you know I’m a big fan of emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace and all areas of our lives. EQ represents a skill set that when mastered, separates mediocre from star-performers. So here are six leadership styles to understand, specifically when they are most effective as well as problems that may arise if you don’t pivot your style as needed!
1. Visionary – This style is quite effective overall and moves people toward shared dreams. It almost always has a positive impact on climate and may be represented by statements like “Come with me, join me, let’s go do this.” One of the rare times this style may backfire is when followers are as skilled as the leader and can result in head-butting, resentment or grid-lock. It is most appropriate to use a visionary style when changes require a new vision, or when a clear direction is needed.
2. Coaching – Represented in statements like “Where do you want to go?” and is most appropriate when employees are genuinely interested in their own development and want to improve their performance by building long-term competencies. The impact on climate is again highly positive though this style will not work with unmotivated employees.
3. Affiliative – With this style “people matter” and so leaders work to create harmony by connecting their people to each other. Impact on climate is positive and this style will be most effective in repairing relationships amongst a team when harmony or trust has been compromised. This style will strengthen connections and also motivate during stressful times. An affiliative style can backfire when a leader is too trusting of followers and forgets to provide clear directions. As a result, poor performance can fall through the cracks.
4. Democratic – This style values other’s input and so affiliative leaders will often ask “What do you think?” A democratic leader gets buy-in or commitment through participation. Impact on climate is typically positive and it’s best to use this style when building consensus or when the leader is unsure of the best course of action. Drawbacks include endless meetings and indecision and it is advised to never use this style during a crisis.
5. Pacesetting – This style is typically negative on climate because it is usually poorly executed. Embodied by the statement “Do as I do and do it as well as I do!” only works when employees are both highly skilled and motivated (high skill and high will). When executed properly, it can be an effective style for a fast-paced atmosphere to meet highly challenging or exciting goals; times of change management.
6. Commanding/Coercive – Because this style is often misused or abused, it is almost always highly negative on climate. It is represented by “Do it my way, and do it now!” This style can be effective during times of crisis or as a last resort with problem employees when nothing else has worked. During times of emergency or crisis, this type of leader can soothe fear through clear directives.
Now that you have an overview of leadership styles and when they’re most effective, it’s time to get clarity on what works best for you and your organization. One warning – there is no one size fits all and just like with strengths, we can “overuse” a style to the point that it becomes ineffective or a detriment. And so you’ll need to know when to pivot your style a bit based upon your organization’s climate and needs!
Additionally, there are also many must-have qualities for anyone who leads whether it’s in the workplace, in the community, or at home. We’re all called to be leaders at one point or another. And now you can get some of these answers revealed in an overview of “Lead Yourself First” – a leadership model based upon four pillars. Lead Yourself First is in part based upon empirical data drawn from more than two dozen interviews with high-profile leaders in Southwest Florida. Click here to download “Lead Yourself First” – Free Guide to Jumpstart Your Leadership Transformation. Next month we’ll further address your pivot from that of leader to manager and dissect the concept of Management.