Management is a Journey®

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It Wasn’t What You Did! It’s How You Did It!

The Story of Jane

Jane’s team was in open revolt about her plan to change the department’s event management procedures for the large national firm where they worked. In her team meeting, they raised one objection after another to all of her plans:

  • The new speakers she wanted needed more vetting of their qualifications.
  • The new contract boilerplate for facility rentals did not provide sufficient protection for the organization.
  • The new timeline for publicity and promotion were unrealistic.

Jane was visibly frustrated after the meeting. She thought to herself:

Don’t they understand that we have to change our way of doing things? They received the corporate memo from the CEO as well as I did.

The truth was that the firm was quickly losing market share to its competitors. The event management department was a prime target for staff reductions or worse for total outsourcing. As far as Jane was concerned, her team members were just resistant to change. Jane decided to take a tougher approach with her team members. No more team meetings!

Sometimes it's not what a manager does that is the problem. Rather, it's how he or she does their job that's the problem. Leadership style matters! Click To Tweet

Jane worked on a project plan for the next few days. She then implemented her plan over the next six weeks. She assigned and monitored all work assignments closely. She reassigned a few critical work duties from resistant team members to her one new team member, her administrative assistant, and to herself.

While Jane met her goals, there was some fallout. Two of her long term team members quit and her IT specialist transferred to another department within the firm. Jane however was unconcerned. She not only met her goals but she did so in her usual high-quality manner. As far as she was concerned, she had demonstrated once again that she knew how to lead others effectively.

The problem was that her boss and other leaders in the organization did not see things the same way. And, they were right! What did Jane fail to understand?

What Jane failed to understand as a leader is that effective leadership is more than getting high quality results. It’s also about how you engage with your team members. Or, as the old saying goes: It wasn’t what you did! It’s how you did it!

Effective leaders adapt their leadership style to fit both the people with whom they are working and the task they need to accomplish. Click To Tweet

Leadership Style Matters!

While Jane did achieve quality results, her leadership style with her team also cost the organization. Two talented team members left the firm at a time when the organization needed them most.

Further, morale in Jane’s department declined rapidly. Not only did her experienced IT specialist transfer to another division, her remaining long-term employees went out of their way to minimize their interaction with her. They stopped contributing their ideas at team meetings and they actively scanned LinkedIn and the internal job listings to find new positions. The only happy team member in Jane’s unit was her new administrative assistant!

Jane had a Pyrrhic victory. She won the battle but she lost the war. It wasn’t Jane’s resolve to make changes in her work function that was wrong, it was how she did it. She needed to adjust her approach (leadership style).

What Is Leadership Style and How Do You Use It?

Leadership style is a leader’s approach to interacting with his or her team members. It reflects the leader’s personality and experience and his or her beliefs and assumptions about other people.

A leader’s style will be evident in how s/he communicates with team members, delegates work, makes decisions, and manages workplace operations. Early work by Psychologist Kurt Lewin and others, identified three major leadership styles:  autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire.

In practice, leaders with an autocratic style will be directive with their teams. These directive leaders frequently just tell their teams what to do and how they should do it as they meet workplace objectives.

Leaders with a democratic style will be collaborative with their teams. These collaborative leaders frequently share decision making and planning with their team members as they ask their team members for input on workplace objectives.

Leaders with a laissez-faire will be hands-off with their teams. These hands-off leaders frequently clarify what they want and then wait for their team members to produce the desired results.

Effective leaders adapt their leadership style to fit both the people with whom they are working and the task they need to accomplish. This was a painful lesson that Jane learned the hard way!

Video: Understanding Leadership Styles

Effective leaders know how to adapt their leadership style. They know how and when to be directive, collaborative, or hands-off. Click To Tweet


Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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