People can experience the same event or interact with the same person and come away with completely different versions of that event or person. Our beliefs about ourselves and others largely define what type of leader inspires and motivates us. And likewise, the way others view of us largely determines how much they follow. In the New Reality in which we now live, we must embrace the fact that we are unique individuals. One-size-fits-all leadership is officially dead.
We do many things in life, from breathing to daily activities, without actually thinking about what we’re doing or how we’re doing them. Consider all the things in life you do without thinking about them. Then comes influence. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we influence everyone we meet or experience.
Leadership is all about influence. And it’s not merely something we do; it rises from who we are. We can’t escape being a leader. Whether we know it or not, we’re always leading. And whether we want to or not, we are always leading. We’re never not leading.
And it can be nonverbal. We can tell by a person’s voice, actions, or just appearance if they’re in a good or bad mood and whether it’s a good idea to even talk. We create a kind of energy with our presence, whether we’re aware of it or not. So, like everything else, we’re wise to get intentional about putting out positive energy. Don’t you love to be around people who give off positive energy? What kind of energy do you give off?
Seek First to Understand
Understanding how we lead and how others experience our leadership from their point of view is critical to effective leadership. So, it should be natural that lifelong learning would include a deep examination of exactly who we are as people and as leaders.
Learning how others see us as leaders can be challenging, but we can learn a lot if we invite others into our growth and development and make sure they know they can be honest. If the people we’re leading feel safe enough to be honest, we can directly ask them. Beyond that, the most objective way to discover who we are and how we affect others is to use assessments. When doing so, most people find they have one or two dominant leadership styles. Do you know what yours are?
For employees to perform well, follow well, get along well, and be overall well, they need to feel some degree of safety in their work environment—safe to be honest about themselves and their struggles, even safe to fail. These things are not namby-pamby, they’re essential for creativity and for high work performance. Because people differ in how they see this, it’s crucial to your role as a leader to seek first to understand before being understood. To create a healthy, winning environment, you must show your people that you care about them first and foremost as people and not just the results they bring to the team or the company.
As a leader, how much should you care? That depends if you want anything good to happen. If you want the best from the people you lead, you should care 100 percent about them. When you consistently care and make the effort to cultivate that kind of a relationship, you establish a secure base for all involved that allows a deep level of psychological safety. This in turn leads to high commitment and high productivity, because when we care like that, we earn the right to challenge employees and followers to pursue things that would otherwise be beyond their willingness or imagination to achieve.
There are many, many models and styles of leadership being taught and practiced. The universal tendency is for most of us to operate by only one.
Dan Goleman, a pioneer in the area of emotional intelligence, along with his team, has identified six basic categories of styles: coercive, visionary, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching. Each area has a different way of operating with a different style, different competency, and different situation where it is effective. Every leader would do well to pay attention to the place and value of each of these.
Each of us gravitates toward one of them. But here’s a good question with a potentially valuable answer: If you were to add another model or style of leadership to the one you prefer, which one would expand your leadership capabilities the most?
Then consider this: Which leadership style do your people need at this time? The Golden Rule is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Dr. Roger Birkman adapted that to the best kind of leadership in what’s called the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would want to be done unto them.
Our perceptions of things can be powerful—and they can be wrong. That’s why we need a good assessment to truly know reality from imagination, whether in ourselves, in others, or in the organization. And how we see people perform on the outside may not be who they are on the inside. Team dynamics present another level of challenge for leaders. This is where the Birkman Method® assessment makes such a difference.
Above and beyond all other assessments on the market, Birkman developed an assessment of unparalleled accuracy and consistency that enables us to truly understand the diversity of people on the team and then use that information to harness the power of that diversity versus trying to lead and manage everyone in the same manner.
It is entirely possible for you to grow into your maximum potential as a leader and to fully harness the power of your team. You may learn more about everything covered in this article in UnCommon Leadership® for the New Reality.