Many leaders, when asked how they best lead, they say “by example.” The problem with leading by example is that people cannot see what goes on in your head and heart. They may be able to duplicate the actions, but do not know all the thought, understanding and preparation that led up to that action. Employees or “followers” may not know how to follow-up on what they see leaders doing.
In larger organizations, it is even harder for employees and co-workers to see all you do. Just seeing a piece of someone’s behavior can be very misleading. Finally, your follower may have a different style of leadership as well as a different way on how they achieve best. They need to learn how they can do it their way instead of your way.
Leading by example is needed to be successful at playing the game, but it is very basic. It is like saying that to play great basketball one must wear socks. That may be true, but it is so very basic that it is worthless.
There are five types of leaders:
1. Equipment or Machine Operators: He/she operates and maintains the equipment or machine. Typically, they have great work ethic. This position is most often the “leadership by example” model since it is easy to see what someone is doing and how they are doing it. If they come early and stay late, it is also easy to see the work ethic. The measurement of results is counting how many widgets produced, how much dirt gets moved, or how much paper is pushed through the system.
2. Managers: Direct what needs to be done and when. They are very responsible and help others understand why something is happening and how to deal with it. This is a valuable role since it connects the strategic plan and long term goals to the short term day-to-day, what needs to be done now. The negative part of this is that is does not necessarily get inside the heads of the people performing the work to impact some of the deeper motivations. Many times this approach does not allow for change and innovations that can be harvested since the focus is on task efficiency. (Change and innovation, which is typically a leadership trait, has a tendency to be both expensive and high risk in terms of time, energy, morale and money.)
3. Leaders of Individuals: Get inside the head of individuals so they understand those individuals. They tie the individual needs and desires to the organization’s goals and objectives. This is incredibly useful, since this frees up the leader go do what they need to do while the individuals continue doing their work. The manager in the paragraph above typically has to be there or close by to be able to continue the effectiveness people doing what they need to do. Being a leader allows you to move to more valuable, higher level tasks while the individuals continue striving and performing.
4. Team Leaders: Get inside the head of the individuals so those individuals are working together, as a team, to meet the day-to-day, weekly and monthly needs. The leader ties together the individuals’ goals so they work together, without needing the leader. The team enjoys working together and is effective at preventing problems. The leader is most often used to get resources in a pinch and is not needed very often. The team leader may also be needed to resolve personality or value conflicts from time to time.
5. Strategic High Level Leaders: Get inside everyone’s head, where they are united in a common long term set of goals that is exciting and fun. It may be a difficult challenge, but the team engages each other, both voluntarily and energetically, towards the destination with values and excellence based on what is inside of them. This strategic, high level leader is also called The Leader Mechanic. They work on what is inside people’s heads and hearts. It may be strategic or tactical, short term or long term, financial or psychological, career or personal, individual or team focused or some combination of all of it.
Using the chart above, make a list of all of your current leaders and potential next generation leaders. Put their name where they are currently at in their development and then identify what is needed to help them learn and achieve the next level of development.
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