When you get a new boss, it’s important to quickly learn his or her leadership style. When you are the new boss, it’s important for your team to understand your leadership style. It’s also important that you know each member of the team and what their strengths are and how their leadership style complements your own.
“Leadership is the capacity to turn vision into reality.” –Warren Bennis
Every year, I read the biographies of great leaders. I have fun categorizing them and guessing their preferred style. I also write down the characteristics I admire in each person as a way to emphasize to my subconscious what I would like to emulate.
As you would expect, each style has pros and cons. I remember taking this test and finding one leader micromanaging every last detail. She took charge and it was her way, period. There was no room for discussion. “That’s someone I could never work for,” I remember thinking. But, when a crisis hit, guess who we turned to? We knew that she would deliver results, fast. There wasn’t time for relationship-building. We needed someone who could move the needle, fast.
That’s when I realized that no one style is perfect. Each of us has skills and styles that are needed for just the right situation.
Matching that situation to our skill is a challenge, but when it happens, everyone sees maximum performance.
When I ran across the infographic below, I thought it was a solid overview of various leadership styles and the pros and cons of each.
What’s your preferred style?
“Leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” –Peter Drucker
Personal and professional growth. We often think they’re different. We live our lives as if the personal and professional are in neat little silos, as if one didn’t affect the other.
I’ve often said that leaders help people with the personal, not just the professional. And sharing a little of the personal may make a big impact in the professional.
The two are interrelated.
And so, when I read Jonathan Raymond’s new work, Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For, I was excited to find a book that explained why this is…and how to use it to become a better leader. Jonathan is the former CEO of EMyth and now the owner of Refound, an advisory firm that offers leadership training and coaching. And I think his take on “good authority” will have you nodding along with what we want from the very best leaders.
“When you make peace with authority, you become authority.” –Jim Morrison
Contrast good versus bad authority. What are a few attributes you would think of?
I’d say the first attribute is in the willingness to own your role as an authority in the first place. I see too many modern leaders try to abdicate that responsibility, either outright or in subtle ways, and try to be nice at the expense of giving people the boundaries they need to grow. The main attribute of bad authority is when a leader doesn’t own their contribution to a stuck dynamic or problematic situation. For example, a leader who hasn’t provided a reasonable timeline to reach a goal and then blames the team for not delivering on it fast enough. Good authority is the art of owning your contribution, being transparent with your team, and then moving forward in a collaborative way.
“Our strengths are not our own until they are freed of the burden of having to heal the past.” –Jonathan Raymond
Would you share a little about the concept of “borrowed authority”?
Borrowed authority is the idea that until we investigate the beliefs about authority we inherited from our parents and teachers – not to mention the business culture in general – we’re still borrowing our leadership style from the past instead of discovering the one that genuinely expresses who we are today. In Good Authority, I offer that the opposite of Good Authority isn’t bad authority, it’s borrowed authority. What I mean by that is that most leaders have good intentions, but until we do the work, we’re bogged down by ideas and beliefs about what it means to be the boss that hold us back and create pain and confusion for the employees in our care as a result.
“You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.” –Timothy O’Leary
I want to ask about organizational culture. You say, “Nobody sets out to make their employees overwhelmed, stressed-out, and miserable.” I have to say that I read that and laughed, thinking, “If Jonathan only met one of my bad bosses, he’d think differently!” You’re right, of course, but people are overwhelmed and stressed. What’s are some ways to change a culture into one that is positive, empowered, and driven?
This may sound odd, but the first problem is bad math. One of the things I ask leaders to do is to add up all the time they’re spending (1) doing re-work for a struggling employee, (2) mediating their interpersonal conflicts, (3) answering questions that they should be able to answer themselves, and (4) complaining to their spouse, partner or friends about how frustrated they are. The pivot is incredibly simple and goes against our conditioning, which is why we typically avoid it. The key to create a positive, empowered and driven culture is the exact same thing that will get you out of being overwhelmed and stressed. Repressing what you see and feel leads to emotional, mental, and physical problems, and it keeps that data away from the one person who needs to hear it in order to grow.
There’s an art to talking about work in a way that feels personally relevant to your employee, but it boils down to this: Give them feedback not about tasks and projects but about how they’re showing up as a human being. Make it about relationships, feeling their impact on others, how they avoid taking risks—those are the things that people will immediately see as helping them get better at work and at life at the same time. There’s a whole new type of organizational culture that opens up from that simple shift.
What are some techniques you use to help coach someone who has problems with listening? How can we all learn to be better listeners at a deeper level?
Before we talk about the deeper cut, one simple technique that’s often used in mediation applies well in the workplace in general. Have the person you’re trying to help repeat back what they heard before responding. Highlight for them what the gaps are between what was said (and, even more importantly, how it was said) and what they heard and how they interpreted it. There’s a lifetime’s worth of personal growth work there.
“We teach best what we most need to learn.” –Richard Bach
At a deeper level, and this is something I work on every day, is to re-examine what we think our value is as leaders. That’s a lot of what Good Authority is about: to learn how the highest value we can add to our teams, and in the rest of our lives, is to put our thumb on the side of the scale that’s about creating the space for others to discover that next better version of themselves, as opposed to tending to fill that space ourselves. I love leaders and have so much respect for anyone who throws their heart into a problem with no guarantee of success. The pivot is to see how not everyone works that way, and that to create the organization that can do more than you can on your own, you have to listen for those other voices.
Finally, it comes down to not shooting the messenger. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve seen, in fact I’ve never seen one where this isn’t true, where one person becomes a scapegoat for the cultural dysfunction and is moved out (fired or pushed into quitting), and the message they were carrying never sees the full light of day. It’s a basic rule of group dynamics, but I see CEOs do it all the time, moving out the ‘disgruntled’ employee instead of leaning into the conversation and discovering the most powerful brand ambassador they’ve got.
Tip: Focus more on who people are and less on deadlines and tasks.
How about letting go of the past? What advice do you give to someone who is letting the past limit their future?
Find a way to get in relationship with it. Meaning, when you notice yourself re-hashing or cycling in an old story, imagine a friend was telling you that story, what would you tell them? It’s a life’s work for sure, but learn to reframe our past in terms of how it made us the person we are today. I heard this phrase again recently that I absolutely love: “The past didn’t happen to us, it happened for us.” To be clear, I’m not suggesting people try and transcend or gloss over traumatic or otherwise difficult personal experiences, only that we hold a bit of double-vision about them. Let yourself feel whatever there is to feel about whatever it is that you feel it’s holding back. Cry, laugh, roll up the car window on the freeway and let out a yell from the depths of your soul. By giving yourself permission to let it be what it is all the way, only then do you open up the room to see it in a new way. The paradox is that you don’t have to do any additional work to do this. It’s the process of giving yourself permission to feel that brings that higher mind back online, and you can move forward with confidence and a sense of self that might surprise you.
In many events, the difference between the treasured gold medal and not placing at all is nearly undetectable. A first-place finish often can be measured only by going out into the hundredth of a second. Many of us remember watching Michael Phelps win his 7th Gold medal by a finger tip. Without the power of technology, and slow motion replays, it can be questionable who won an event.
“You become a champion by fighting one more round.” –James Corbett
For those not yet familiar with your work, what’s the network imperative?
The network imperative is recognizing that today’s most valuable companies are virtual networks that rely on digital platforms. This leading edge, new business model is emerging in every industry: Amazon and Alibaba in the retail industry, Match.com and Tinder in dating, Facebook and Instagram in Social Media, LinkedIn in professional resumes, Airbnb and Homeaway in room rentals, Uber and Lyft in shared car services, as well as the NYSE and NASDAQ in the financial sector.
What did your research show in terms of the financial results of “network orchestrators” versus the other 3 business models?
These business models – which we call Network Orchestrators – are more about orchestrating resources, be it insights, relationships, cars, homes, and skills rather than owning them. In addition, they scale based on the a flywheel effect , e.g. the more people, services and interactions there are on the network, the more others will join and make available their assets – whether that’s friends, photos, resumes, cars or homes.
Our research indicates that all organizations have dormant, virtual networks of either employees, customers, prospects, suppliers, investors or alumni that, when combined with a digital platform and a clear incentive system to share what they have, what they know and who they know with others, can apply network orchestration to their business model. To help incumbents transition from firm centered (where they focus on what they make, market and sell) to network centric (where they orchestrate what others have and create peer-to-peer connections), we created a 5 step process called PIVOT. The 5 steps are:
Pinpoint your current business model (e.g. which of the 4 business models are you? Asset builder, service provider, technology creator or network orchestrator?)
Inventory all your assets both tangible (e.g. plant, property and equipment as well as money) and intangible (brand, intellectual capital and relationships as well as interactions and big data).
Visualize your future digital platform that connects your network of people or things.
Operate your new digital network and virtual platform alongside your existing business and protect it while it grows, experimenting along the way to find the sweet spot that insures its success.
Track using new big data metrics such as engagement, sentiment or interaction along with traditional financial measures to see how your network is doing and the value it creates.
“Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” –Joe Biden
My friend Mark Sanborn has advanced this idea for years. His definition of leadership is broad, one that encompasses everyone in an organization. A leader is someone who helps “people and organizations surpass themselves,” he says, adding that the test of leadership is whether “anything or anyone is better because of you.”
Mark knows leadership. In addition to his bestselling books, he is one of the most in-demand speakers on leadership, customer service and team building.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Mark about all things leadership. This 10 minute video interview is a great reminder of some of the most important leadership principles. We discuss the definition of leadership and two of the biggest pitfalls leaders face.