Just today, I read about Trump reassigning a senior adviser because he disagreed with him. He did a press conference a few days ago which attacked media for the proliferation of “fake news” or news which disagrees with his own information (valid or not).
Now, before I ignite any stir, let me state that I am not going to write about Trump and my views of his presidency today. The current headlines simply made me reflect on leadership styles in general, and particularly in the corporate world.
As a leader, how do you respond to your own critics and naysayers?
How do you handle a colleague who frequently negates your direction?
How do you tolerate peers, bosses and customers who seem to enjoy pushing your buttons and questioning your decisions?
Are you able to handle difficult people with dignity, respect, and lack of spite?
If you are like me, you want a leader who is a visionary: someone who is transformative, consultative and inspirational. These leaders value opinions and weigh options fairly before making a decision and will rally the whole team to support it.
I wanted to be the kind of leader who would be a mentor more than a boss. I have in the past punished myself at the end of the day by feeling terrible whenever I needed to push people too much.
But the reality is clear to me today: not one leadership style works on its own. When you have a team of high-performing and experienced individuals, when you have a team that is very new to the job, when you’re under pressure to deliver but don’t have the right resources, when you’re handling a team of very different backgrounds, and all the other circumstances which come to you and change as they go, your leadership style is only effective when it rises to the occasion.
For different reasons and seasons, leadership styles will need to adapt. Yes, this is tough news: there is no singular and universal leadership method.
This brings me to the earlier questions about handling critics, naysayers, and simply difficult people. Intuitively, it is easy to resort to counter-attacks, backbiting, and other malicious activities that I’ve seen every day in my corporate life.
This is where my thinking becomes controversial. What do you do about these people? My answer is this: Find a permanent place for these critics, naysayers, and simply difficult people in your job.
Why? These critics, naysayers and simply difficult people will help you avoid making big mistakes. It gets extremely frustrating to work with people who relish their roles as devil’s advocates because many times, they only get in the way like a nuisance instead of legitimately challenging a valid idea or solution. Yes, these people exist and they’re plenty.
However, I’ve seen so many leadership styles that lean towards protecting their fortress of power through a seeming show of force. Many people fall into the trap of thinking that power and success give them a level of invincibility. They think that years of rising the corporate ladder have afforded them the position of constantly being right. And everyone can just follow, wait, and see.
I sounded off my thoughts to my husband today, and he shared to me his learning about the triad of dialogue, discussion and decision which he learned from Adaptive Schools. Dialogue, discussion and decision follow an order: a leader seeks out a dialogue before compiling information and facilitating a discussion. A decision is reached when these two prerequisites have been exhausted.
In the corporate world, there is not always the luxury of time to dialogue and discuss exhaustively. Leaders at times need to assume the autocratic style of making decisions. While this is not ideal, it is a reality. A leader needs to know the risks of making decisions on his own with the limited information and the personal assumptions he has. If he is a leader who looks out for his people, he will understand and accept accountability.
I have not met a perfect leader and the truth to accept is there all along: we are all imperfect. But we can keep learning and improving.
People are changing (Hello, millennials!). Times are changing. Business is changing. The whole world is changing.
Is our leadership style right for what is in front of us?
Be free to challenge our own response by asking: Does our leadership style need an upgrade?
The great Dr. Cory Willey would tell me: Effective leaders are adaptable and are the best listeners. They empower others to make change.
Something to think about.
“Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit.” –Robert F. Tucker