Leadership – Should One Be Assertive & Aggressive or Quietly Effective at Balancing a Stool?

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Topics: Leaders, Updates

In a recent article in Psychology Today http://bit.ly/1e7HIRl – the argument was put forward “Why Leaders Need to Be Likeable Rather Than Dominating”. Written by Ray B. Williams, author of ‘The Leadership Edge, Breaking Bad Habits’ http://amzn.to/1f6onSK
‘Wired for Success’ suggests likeability (amongst other characteristics) means people, given the choice, would prefer to work for a boss who demonstrates emotional awareness, understanding, trustworthiness, warmth, or at least a caring attitude.

I often see the impact on employees when there is excessive focus on short term results and the bottom line by bosses whose behaviors can be toxic countering any well-meaning effort to build a high performance culture. Yet, being “likable” may not cut it either. In my experience, leadership involves constantly juggling between three legs of a stool:

• The ability to articulate and rally the organization around a compelling enough vision, in turn developing effective teamwork and building a culture of trust

• Even with a CFO or other financial advisors, sufficient business acumen to understand how to survive and thrive in a constantly changing environment. The business model must be viable and capable of supporting growth.

• Demonstrating social skills and emotional intelligence to understand what motivates employees and teams to ensure they reach their full potential. Leaders have a responsibility to support various stakeholders be successful by creating the conditions for trust, effective communication and conflict management,collaboration, as well as robust problem solving and decision making.

Few leaders possess strong skills across all three parts of the stool: they may have strengths in one or two areas but lack acumen in the other(s). This matters. It matters a lot and it is the reason why leadership has to be a team effort with diverse skills and styles.

The war on top talent demands your organization’s culture is inviting enough but job seekers also look for a track record of success. Focusing only on the bottom line may attract great sales staff but problems quickly materialize between sales staff and functional service employees, which can get ugly. Demonstrating good social skills without vision and without a business bone in your body will quickly prove challenging: meeting payroll is a minimum requirement.

Gone are the days when leaders can assume others will simply follow their orders, relying on their power and authority over others. Though fear in the workplace unfortunately still thrives (at all levels of the workforce), no organization can afford this ruthless kind of leadership. With my coaching clients, many of who are in leadership positions, I encourage them to think about the kind of leader they want to be – and the kind of organization they want to run. I suggest they build awareness of what they are good at, the dangers of overusing their strengths and to be willing to surround themselves with talent across the organization, ultimately ensure the three-legged stool stays upright, balanced and supports effectiveness on business results, sustaining a nurturing work environment, and supporting talent retention.

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