Think back on your work career; try to remember those leaders or mentors that really stand out. What made you think of them? Why did they stand out? If you are remembering more than one, were they both the same type of leader? There are different styles of leadership and each one of them may bring success, but great leaders, must also possess the ability to unify those around him or her and those that report to them. They also must maintain integrity in their day to day actions and truly have a passion for leading. We agree with John C. Maxwell who wrote, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way”. Chances are the leaders who stand out in our minds are those who pushed us to achieve more than we thought we could, listened intently to our ideas and gave necessary feedback in a positive manner.
There are many different styles of leadership. The type of leadership required in an organization will change depending on the demands at the time. The leader may need to be a Visionary, encouraging innovation and creativity, or a Coach that focuses on an individual to develop them personally to fit a need within the company, or a Transformational leader that moves the organization in a new direction and maximizes the performance of a team.
A good example of transformational leadership is the story of Jack Welch, former CEO and chairman of General Electric. On a customer visit Welch found out that GE’s CAT scan and X-ray tubes were good for only 25,000 scans, which was less than half the number of the competition. Welch went down two levels of management and found the person in charge, a general manager for service and maintenance, Marc Onetto. He brought Marc from Europe to GE headquarters and issued a challenge that he wanted 100,000 scans out of the tubes. Onetto was shocked but made this his personal challenge and in returned received direction from one of the most effective business leaders in the world. Every week, he had to send Welch progress reports. These reports were returned with handwritten notes that either were congratulatory, as in “That’s Great” or growling, like “You are not moving fast enough.” Welch’s relentlessness in the goal and his belief that they could do it, lead to a breakthrough. Today the division produces tubes that put out between 150,000 and 200,000 scans per tube. Onetto has said it was the single most powerful performance breakthrough of his life and the single most powerful learning experience.
A truly great leader can move between the different styles and change depending on the needs of the individual, the team and/or the organization.
Chances are that you can remember bad leaders as well. It is very common when things are not going well and expectations are not being met. When this happens it is difficult to resist the urge to “beat the sheep”. The leader feels that if the team would have ‘behaved properly’, we would have achieved the goals. He or she may openly communicate disgust and frustration. It makes you think of the days when shepherds carried around big sticks and would smack the sheep when they didn’t behave. “Bad sheep!” Whap!
If the sheep are not responding the way you think they should, put down your stick and ask questions to see if you gave them the encouragement, information, and tools they needed to be successful. Never ‘beat the sheep’, a word of loving admonition every once in a while might be appropriate, but put the stick away. Forever.
Stating the obvious can be pretty painful, but the deeper issue in playing Captain Obvious is that there frequently is a disconnect between what you expect people to know and what they actually do. Gaps in knowledge-sharing exist, or you wouldn’t have to wear the captain’s hat at all.
Leaders must have integrity and passion. They should earn the trust of their subordinates by being a guide and a credible source of information, encouragement and guidance. They must be able to share lessons and insights they have learned along the way and teach their team how to apply them so that they don’t make the same mistakes. Leaders should take responsibility for their actions, always be willing to go the extra mile and be an example to others.
It should be clear what type of leadership style your team needs by their behavior, results, body language or words. If you’re not sure, dig in, ask, and research for yourself. You must constantly challenge yourself to be a better version of you each day. You can do this by reading, having direct and honest communication with your team, and by continually practicing. Your team will see your effort and generally rise to meet it.
If you are leading a team or interested in becoming a leader you may want to ask yourself these questions:
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