Skiing the Slopes of Leadership
It was Boss's Day on the 16th October. I was listening to the radio as I drove out to do a keynote address to heads of private banks. My mind was systematically going through the points I had to raise during my talk but it was a difficult task as the DJ was getting callers to share how they planned to celebrate the day with their bosses.
The talk back radio show was popular most mornings. A string of callers responded, some who liked their bosses and others dreading the day as they felt compelled to take their bosses out for lunch to say the least.
There was a caller who stood out. She said she did not really like her job but had stayed on for six years solely due to her boss! She said, "My boss is amazing. Every time I think about moving I fear landing up with a horrible boss."
It made me wonder about this 'perfect' boss who was so highly appreciated and the qualities which made up such a boss.
I remember many years ago the Hay Group had partnered with Daniel Goleman in a research survey amongst top organisations worldwide. They identified the six most effective styles of leadership as follows: Directive: emphasis on immediate compliance from employeesVisionary: emphasis on providing long term vision and leadershipAffiliative: emphasis on creating harmonyParticipative: emphasis on group consensus and generating new ideasPace-setting: emphasis on accomplishing tasks to high standardsCoaching: emphasis on professional growth of employees
My observation of leaders in top management over the years has led me to conclude that the best recipe for an effective leader is a combination of a few styles. Although some may have a dominant style, these leaders exhibit behavioural flexibility, which allows them to read a situation and act accordingly rather than being rigid.
Above all a great leader is also a visionary, who is able to see the big picture and make the necessary adjustments towards the desired results. In my experience such individuals work towards a higher collective goal, larger than their personal ambition. They are genuine about empowering the workforce, are open to ideas and build successful people by investing in their professional growth.
Skiing the slopes of management seems to come naturally to them. They know when to swerve around the obstacles on the path, slow down, pick up speed and read the terrain. Great leaders are able to step into different roles that are required for different situations, as the job requires.
Being at the top of the mountain gives them perspective of the situation, just like an observer watching a game. The next role is doing the job at hand whether we are going up or down the mountain. Doing the job gets our hands dirty and makes us the wiser for it.
Leaders who lead from experience are able to guide their people effectively. Climbing the mountain they see and feeling the enormity of the job. Skiing the slopes with speed or as gently as they see fit is a choice they have to make depending on the terrain ahead.
The third role is being able to step into another's shoes. So often leaders trumpet their own cause but fail to see what it is like from the other side. If I were at the bottom of the mountain watching "me" ski down the slope what would I see? This is a truly remarkable role, as it requires a leader to step out of his/her shoes before stepping into another's.
Some of our greatest political leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Sir Winston Churchill, have shown us that respect is earned through behaviour rather than taken for granted by virtue of the positions they held.
I know they would have stepped into the shoes of others to understand what they wanted before making their decisions. That is how they received a strong following.
When all is said and done it is my experience that many of the leadership qualities described in the styles above can be developed provided the candidate has the suitable skills-set and willingness to learn.
We live in a very fortunate age where so many efficient methods for developing leaders are available today including leadership programmes, simulations, hands-on experiential training, corporate coaching and mentoring. The value of these in my opinion far surpasses going back to school for more boring academic theories.
Leaders who tap into their emotional and spiritual intelligences have a far better chance to lead their people effectively than those who are steeped in academic theory. What do you think? Are you a leader who exemplifies any of these leadership styles?
Sylvia Fernandes is the Founder & CEO of VIA Frontiers established in Sydney in 2002. She is a corporate NLP trainer and consults in creating effective people in the Asia Pacific Region.
She is also the author of Bye Bye Black Cat – Turn Your Luck Around to Realise Opportunities – to be launched on the 23rd
October 2014 in major bookstores in the ASEAN Region. Go to www.viafrontiers.com
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.