“Leadership” means different things to different people, and this term holds a different value within every company culture. In some organizations, strong leaders are those who give clear directions and apply the necessary pressure to make sure those directions are carried out. In other companies, leaders are experts and valued sources of information. In some cultures, leaders set an example that others tend to follow, so they control the behavior of the group even if they have no direct authority. And in some organizations, leaders are motivators who rally the team, generate excitement, and elevate morale.
Which are you? Are you an energetic coach? An information resource? A role model? Or are you a rule enforcer or a bossy bureaucrat?
If you’re like most managers, you probably fluctuate between each of these depending on your personality and your circumstances…but you spend a little more time in one role than any of the others. Here are a few considerations that can help you stay flexible as you shift between various leadership approaches.
Pay attention to what you’re doing.
The next time you need to exercise leadership, think before you act. Recognize the style that you drift toward automatically and ask yourself if this style is the best one for the situation. Always remember that you have options: If you don’t feel like an energetic cheerleader today, you don’t have to put on this hat. A different one may be more appropriate, and you’re not bound by the expectations of others.
Watch out for the danger zones.
Sometimes you’ll need to push your volumes of accumulated knowledge aside and become a cheerleader instead…or vice versa. Sometimes the best strategy is to play it cool and hope that your team follows your example voluntarily. But most of the time, positive leadership styles work better than negative ones. If you have to choose between praise and criticism, choose praise. If you have to choose between yelling and coaching, lean toward coaching. If you have to choose between a democracy and a dictatorship, choose the first.
Respond to feedback.
In your last organization, your team responded well to a swaggering, order-barking, cowboy style of management. When you stepped into your new job, your barked orders were met with blank stares and snickering. You barked louder. Things got worse. What now? Here’s a tip: don’t cling to approaches that are clearly ineffective. And don’t go it alone. Get feedback, ask for guidance, and seek out mentors in your new workplace who can show you how it’s done. Most important, stay tuned in to your team.
For more tips on how to step into a leadership role and steer your organization down the right path, reach out to the management experts at CSS.