We grow up with various stereotypes and accordingly, we look up to certain kind of leaders as our heroes. Organizations tend to choose and promote people who are boisterous, loud and confident. It is believed that such a person is likely to inspire and lead the flock purposively, keep them together and deliver the results that the organization wants. We would have seen personalities who are on the quieter side and unable to create an impression in the first interaction. Social norms work in the minds of the audience and often they lose out when pitted against a verbal enthusiast. However, I have seen poor results delivered by the team led by the seemingly ideal person. Why is it so?
Context matters… A leader must adapt!
Situations differ and accordingly the challenges before a leader vary. One has to be flexible to be able to adapt to the situation. You may be loud and dominating; leading your team from the front and in the spotlight. Alternately, you may be quiet, analytical and empowering; prefer to be in the background. Neither of the two types is ideal! A leader is a human; the followers are human too. Hence, the group dynamics and the leader’s personal style determine how well one is able to adapt to the situation.
The leader has to invest the time and space to think about the context, recognize the situation, involve the team in arriving at the decision and building ownership of the execution steps. These steps sound very textbook style. Often, the situation could be such that the leader does not have the wherewithal to go through these steps. And in some cases, personal style of the individual comes on the way of following this style.
Results take a beating when the team expects consultation and participation whereas the leader follows his own agenda to arrive at the decision and merely communicates them down the line. Given the composition of today’s workforce, team members often want to understand the rationale of a decision and participate in the process; they do not like to be instructed and watched over their shoulders. Given this context, it is more likely that the leader cannot afford to have a dominating, invincible and instructive style. Similarly, there are situations where the house is on fire and the leader is expected to be on his toes, taking quick calls and leading from the front. So, the style of being participative, passive and consensus-driven will not work.
One-size-fits-all does not work. One has to adapt to the context!
One of the most important characteristics that defines a leader is the choices one makes. While the speed of decision making, the process of arriving at the decision and the way it is communicated are important, the first and most critical factor behind the success of a leader is the decision one takes. Normally, there is a set of alternate paths which lie before a leader and one chooses to traverse one of them.
Isn’t it frustrating to see the leader delaying a decision, procrastinating, unwilling to bite the bullet? We need our leader to be confident and calm in evaluating various alternates; we need him or her to be charismatic and creative in bringing up new possibilities before us. It is a unique combination of self-confidence, charisma and pragmatism that we look for. Again, easier said than done! How often we come across such people?
We find the macho and communicative boss who believes in speed and his instinct in processing the information, takes a call fast and pushes the team to get ahead. It surely raises the confidence of the team, boosts team spirit and fires everyone up. When the going gets tough, the boss needs to stay strong and calm to weather the storm, make course-corrections and sustain optimism. We have seen such macho leaders fail at times.
Quiet leaders are often stereotyped as people who are slow, tentative and selfish. However, from another perspective, the same actions might be sure-footed, determined and cautious. So pragmatically speaking, our boss needs to be balanced in his approach to a problem so that the choice is made quickly; communicated with vigour; and arrived after giving it the right amount of thought and experience. No one type of leader does it better than the other!
If you love solitude…
As we can see, there is no one particular style of leadership that works better than the other. Just in case you love solitude, prefer to write than talk, hate superficiality, embrace deep-diving, stay calm and confident in times of crisis as well as jubilation, you need not worry about your prospects of being successful as a leader. You have great strengths which need to be leveraged!
It is easy for you to listen actively, empathise, give credit to your team, put your team first, stay poised and find solutions. It is important for you to communicate often, show the way forward and exude optimism. Your team trusts you, values your position and looks up to you for inspiration!