Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Your Leadership Style?

What sort of leader are you? A question that poses the risk of sending less modest types into Steve Jobs/Mahatma Gandhi-based reveries. It also risks provoking blank expressions. Keen to avoid association with the type of leader who would answer as above, there are also bosses who have never had the time nor inclination to consider this.

Earlier this year, research by management consulting firm Hay Group drew a strong link between demotivated working climates and a lack of conscious thought from bosses about the sort of leader they wanted to be. In fact, the approach of the more self-aware boss modeling themselves on one particular business icon, could be just as limited.That’s because the key to successful leadership is to choose between several styles.
"It’s like golf clubs: the more you have the better game you’re going to play," says Yvonne Sell, director at Hay Group. "Typically, we find that the best leaders have four or more styles."

'Situational Leadership’ has been around since the 1970s, but it seems to have been forgotten. "Our research shows a preponderance of people now using just a coercive or directive style. That’s a ‘just get it done, get it done now’ style," says Sell. Hays’ survey, based on interviews with 14,000 leaders in 400 UK companies, found that 38 percent of leaders have mastered only one or no positive leadership styles.

"What we’ve seen is that the coercive style has increased with economic uncertainty," she says. "That’s because people feel like their whole organization is under pressure. People feel they don’t have the time to explain the background or strategy to people."

While this directive style is useful in many scenarios, it can have detrimental effects on morale and creativity, says BPIF chief executive Kathy Woodward. "It’s easy for print bosses to be directive, because if you’re in an environment with short deadlines and you are under pressure, it’s easy to just focus on the task and tell people what to do."

Take this quiz by Print Week to discover if you have enough strings to your leadership styles bow.

What kind of leader are you?

Tot up how many of each letter you have (you can circle more than one for each question). If you have an even spread between two or three styles you’re already on your way. A spread between four or more and you’re sickeningly brilliant. Close magazine and move to celebratory drink-purchasing environment.

1    There’s a job you’re keen to pitch for. You…

a    Explain to all working on the pitch how much winning the job will boost the company’s bottom line by.

b    Get an ambitious, but relatively inexperienced, employee to lead the pitch so as to really stretch them.

c    Ask which members of the team might like to work on it.

d    Take the lead completely, slapping employees’ hands if they so much as go to look at the tender documents.

e    Delegate strict instructions as to which parts of the pitch should be formulated and delivered by whom.

f    Call a meeting in which all members of staff can thrash out ideas about approaching the opportunity.

2    Disaster strikes: a blocked inkhead means a job is looking none too pleased with itself and needs reprinting. Meanwhile, the customer’s tapping their foot impatiently in reception… You…

a    Outline to staff the most efficient way of reordering jobs, taking time to paint just a quick mental picture of the customer’s bloodthirsty demeanour.

b    Give your budding production manager the chance to shine.

c    Schedule in a quick heart to heart with staff to check they’re not feeling ‘too stressed by it all’.

d    Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in (possibly elbowing people out of the way in the process).

e    Switch into military mode, telling each member of staff exactly what they need to do to help get the job out.

f    Get the flip-chart out and the doughnuts in – brainstorming is the best way to overcome any challenge.

3    After plaintive cries of ‘you never call any more’ from clients, you’ve noticed one of your most sparky account directors has slipped into bad habits. You…

a    Explain how only liaising over email can lose clients and how the company can’t afford this to happen.

b    Send them on a training course faster than you can say ‘people buy from people’.

c    Check there are no underlying personal problems affecting their performance. Then explain the importance of having friendly, face-to-face relationships with clients, where you get to know them as people as well as suits.

d    Organise a meeting between yourself, the account director and the neglected client where you can lead by example.

e    Set exact targets for how much time the account director should be spending on the phone and in meetings with each client.

f    Get all account execs together to discuss ways of better engaging with clients.

4    You’ve announced that the company is to be bought by Not A Big Soulless Corporation, Honest Ltd. You…

a    Take time to explain just why this acquisition might actually be a good thing.

b    Take each employee aside to discuss their career options.

c    Call regular informal group therapy-esque meetings so everyone can air their worries.

d    Rest safe in the knowledge your employees trust you as a highly competent, trustworthy sort.

e    Make sure the company stays on track by running an even tighter ship than usual.

f    In fact, you haven’t made the announcement or indeed the decision to sell. You’re still gathering employee feedback on the idea.

5    It’s time. The 21st century can be ignored no longer and you’ve decided to take the cross-media plunge. You…

a    Make sure any salespeople disgruntled at having to be knowledgeable about a whole new area understand why this new offering could keep them in pinstripes and hair wax.

b    Roll out a rigorous training programme that will soon have all employees ‘mailshot-ing’ like pros.

c    Trial a series of therapeutic approaches in your attempts to get to the bottom of your deputy’s inexplicable aversion to all things digital.

d    Seize this as the ideal moment to reveal your MA in Multimedia Communications, inspiring all with your extensive electronic media skills.

e    Work out exactly how each staff member will be valuable to the venture. People don’t need to know why they’re pressing buttons and inputting information.

f    Make sure all staff, no matter how junior, have the chance to shape the new offering. Finally, a use for young Craig’s social media obsession…


Mostly As: You’re a visionary leader

Good for Congrats. Your natural style is actually one with relatively few drawbacks and usefully deployed in a range of scenarios. You have a flair for helping people see the wider picture. "If you were only going to pick one style, this would probably be the best one. It works in nearly all situations, because even the ‘we need to get this to the courier by 5pm’ directive approach is aided by the explanation ‘that’s because if we don’t, X, Y and Z will happen and this will impact our ability to do business," says Hay Groups’ Sell.

Not so good for Despite its all-round ‘amazingness’, a visionary approach is sometimes impractical. "Where something’s very deadline driven or health and safety-critical, you haven’t the time to do the visionary stuff," says leadership trainer Lewis. "If you’re a colonel in the army, you can’t say ‘let’s have a chat about this, let me tell you about the bigger picture of when we win the war’."

Mostly Bs: You’re a coaching leader

Good for Another style that has relatively few downsides. This kind of leader is sure to find out what an employee wants regarding professional development, and to help them achieve this. "For me, the most effective style is when you have a combination of visionary and coaching. Someone has the over-arching vision and you have a set of coachers underneath trying to move the organisation towards realising that," says the BPIF’s Woodward.

Not so good for A coaching approach won’t be applicable for some older team members. "With the changing demographic of workplaces, it may come to the point where there’s someone who is semi-retired who may feel ‘I don’t want long-term career options, I’m all about slowing down right now’," says Sell.

Mostly Cs: You’re an affiliative leader

Good for Similar but still distinct from the coaching style, the affiliative approach is one that takes care of staff’s emotions rather than just their career ambitions. If you’re an affiliative leader, it will really come into its own in times of crisis. "This will come in when you’re downsizing and will be crucial in relation to the higher retirement age," says Woodward. "What happens when someone is too old to work effectively but doesn’t want to leave? How you treat that individual will really permeate throughout your organization."

Not so good for "Affiliative tends not to work where there are performance issues," says Sell. "Obviously, if the performance issue is related to a personal problem, that’s a different story. But just being nice to someone where there’s an issue is not necessarily effective. It also doesn’t work with some people. Some will just think ‘stop asking me about my weekend, it’s none of your business’."

Mostly Ds: You’re a pace-setting leader

Good for Pretty much what it says on the tin this one. You’re probably a coffee-glugging, non-sleeping, high-energy type who has founded their own business. Leading by example, you expect everyone else to be swept along with your energy and learn from your high-achieving ways. "This sort of leader is often an entrepreneur and very hands-on. They’re very good at getting a business up and running, they’re in there checking it all themselves," says leadership methodologist of 20 years Paul Bridle. Sell adds: "This style is really effective when you have people who already have a lot of the skills so they can watch you and figure out what you’re doing."

Not so good for "As the business grows, this type can find themselves not doing so well because they don’t know how to stop actually doing things and allow and teach others to do them," says Bridle. Lewis adds: "Being a good leader isn’t about ‘well, I know how to do this so I’ll keep it to myself’ or ‘others will just pick it up’. A good leader will think about how they bring on others."

Mostly Es: You’re a directive/autocratic leader

Good for Loosely summed up as ‘my way or the highway’, this style comes into its own for many of the situations print bosses face - where there are health and safety considerations or tight deadlines, for example. "This can be really effective where there are performance issues; if you know someone can do the job and they’re just not pulling their socks up," adds Sell.

Not so good for "A directive approach can really hamper creativity," warns Woodward. "A lot of people think in a hierarchical structure: creativity lives at the top, when actually it should filter right through to the bottom. If you’re very directive, then you don’t create opportunities for those other layers to come forwards with ideas."

Mostly Fs: You’re a democratic/consultative leader

Good for A veritable Mandela, you’re good at listening to all viewpoints and encouraging debate about how something should be done. "An element of democracy should be operating where you’re trying something new; for instance, if you’re bringing a new client on board," says Woodward.

Bridle adds that the habit of seeing what other ideas are out there should extend to business-to-business relations. "Leaders need to realize that if they’re going to make quantum steps forwards they will probably get there quicker by partnering with other organizations rather than doing everything in-house. A lot of innovative stuff is coming from a joint venture approach," he says.

Not so good for Again, sometimes there just isn’t time for a democratic approach. And there’s only so long something should be debated before someone steps up and makes a decision. "You can’t discuss things forever," says Lewis. "There are some organizations where you go in and they’ve been talking about something for six months. At some point someone’s got to say ‘let’s do something about this’."

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