It’s Monday morning and the boss walks in. Everyone stops talking about their morning mid-sentence, shuffles to their stations and begins tapping on their keyboard, measuring up, drilling, cleaning...anything. The number one reason why staff leave their jobs is that they don’t like their boss (1). Effective leadership is one of the most talked about and elusive skills to master because it involves two unknown factors - other people, and other people’s personalities.
Working out your own personality and potential leadership style(s) is a good place to start. There are many different experts who categorise leadership styles. For example, David Coleman has six emotional leadership styles: Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting and Commanding leaders (2). Each have their positives and negatives according to the groups and situations they manage. However most widely used group of leadership styles are: Laissez-faire (free reign to staff), Autocratic (single decision maker with little input from others), Participative (democratic decision making), Transactional (use of rewards for meeting performance standards), and Transformational (high communication/visibility in the team, big picture focus, delegate small tasks) (3)
Once you have formed a picture of which type of leadership style you may be then the next step is to ask yourself what does that your style say about you? A 360 Degree Review can be drawn up although it not necessarily reliable (4) on its own as there are personal relationships and biases at play, never the less it may be useful. Perhaps ask yourself in addition to surveying your staff - how do I feel when you lead? Am I getting the responses that I am looking to achieve? That is the core of leadership - influencing others to willingly do what you would like for them to do without fear or hostility.
Humanising yourself as a boss is important. To be ‘a person’ and not an entity creates a personal connection where sympathy, respect and listening to others invigorates a team, to the point where you can even throw down a challenge and they take it on. Dale Carnegie wrote about this kind of influencing in How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936 - a book which has since been re-published over 30 million times. Influencing rather than telling people what they should and shouldn’t do is more effective in the long run. People need to feel a sense of being part of something great and that they have made a difference to the world. A great leader understands and activates this innate human need to belong and contribute without arousing resentment. In fact, building rapport with others is central to taking a plan and turning it into a reality.
Influencing others can also operate on a subtler level than knowing styles and techniques. Body language such as ‘matching and mirroring’ another person has been widely recognised as a psychological cue, communicating to the other person that you are on their side. Additionally, and importantly, mirroring and matching actively shows you understand the other person’s feelings and intentions5. Body language is powerful even in situations when perhaps a person is feeling overwhelmed when normally they would curl their shoulders inward and lowering their head, the person instead adopts a “power pose”6 (think Superman and Wonder Woman). This pose automatically increases the levels of cortisol in the body and quickly communicates to the other person high confidence and personal mastery. Even the pace in which we breathe communicates to other people our thoughts, moods and intentions. If we breathe at a fast, short pace it shows impatience, worry and in some cases panic. To monitor your breathing as a leader could mean that you adopt an even pace of breath, slower speed of speaking and subsequently communicate to others a calmer consistent personality.
Pulling together the combination of your style, the ability to influence other people and using body language to communicate that you are the type of person that can work positively with other people will create the foundation of a terrific leader.
Now you can picture a new Monday morning. Two people are chatting about their mornings, they give you smile and a nod to say hello. You smile back, ask about their weekends, listen. They let you know what they have on the go that day while another group say hello and get ready for your ten o’clock catch up meeting. Great leadership is more often the result of what isn’t said but done.
2 Goleman D., Boyatzis R. E. and MacKee A. 2002, The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership Into the Science of Results. Little, Brown Book Group. London United Kingdom.
Carnegie, D. 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Gallery Books. New York, America.
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