Being a leader isn’t just a challenge; it’s a whole series of them. Not only do you manage your team every day, but you lead them through change, monitor turnover and absences, and spearhead innovations, all while making sure everyone feels valued, heard, and included.
It’s a balancing act, to say the least. Add in your own career development and goals—which are just as important—and it can sometimes feel like a little too much.
So how can you know when you’re doing it all effectively?
Let’s look at an example.
Lucinda heads a team of eleven at a growing software company. She attends a meeting with her boss, who has exciting news about a brand new idea.
“We’d like to introduce the Agile methodology for all projects starting this month,” he tells her, “It’s a new way of working, and it will be different, but I think it’s going to make us a whole lot more productive.”
Lucinda is excited—she’s up for a challenge and believes in the methodology—but she’s unsure how her team will take it.
“Juan, Beatrice, Amir, and Duncan are going to love this,” she thinks. “They’re always keen to try new approaches and probably can’t wait to start.”
But her team is a large one, and not everyone will love the change.
She’s particularly worried about Peter, Dion, and Marc, who are comfortable with their current style and won’t easily embrace a new way of working.
“I wonder how they will take it,” she muses.
Then there’s Milou and Finnin, who love trying out new work styles…but how will they cope, coming from a non-tech background and never even having heard of Agile?
“It’s going to be extra tough for them to master these new skills,” Lucinda worries.
Last but not least, there’s Manual and Suzanne to think about. Although they’re capable, skilled team members, they’re not overly confident when it comes to learning new things.
“They’re going to feel out of their depth,” Lucinda thinks, “…and they’ll need some extra support from me…”
Stop Right There!
Lucinda’s got a few things to think about and gets busy planning the best way to lead her team through this pilot.
But it’s now that I’d like to interrupt.
That’s because Lucinda remembered a very important step that most leaders tend to miss: Thinking about what individual team members need to perform at their best.
Do you stop to consider each team member individually before you take on a challenge that affects them all?
Effective Leadership Styles
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for leading others, and that’s easy to forget when you’re focused on making things work. Checking what your unique team members need allows you to adopt the most effective leadership style for each person.
There are four important styles to choose from: Inspire, Coach, Instruct, and Direct.
When you lead by inspiring others, you focus on communicating and motivating others with your vision. Your aim is to foster your teammate’s support for that vision by getting them enthusiastic about it on an emotional rather than a rational level. This means outlining your views on the situation, and it works especially well for people who love feeling included in your future vision.
Coaching others is a little different. Rather than moving others with your vision, you adopt a more supportive role, generating food for thought and helping others find their own solutions. This style works well for team members who need a little more help and motivation.
When you instruct others, you are focused on WHAT they need to do to execute the task effectively. Your job as a leader is to give helpful, detailed instructions that will maximize their chances of success, such as guidelines, procedures, and the resources they will need to draw on. As you might imagine, the Instruct style is most effective when you are leading team members who require more guidance.
The last main leadership interaction style involves discussing your desired results and establishing a clear framework for the task ahead. You can do this by ensuring others have a strong sense of direction and know their boundaries. What is not okay? How much freedom do they have to be creative and innovate?
The Direct style works well with those with a strong need for goals, context, and context.
Mix and Match
Now that you’re familiar with the four styles, which do you feel would be most effective for Lucinda’s team?
What works best for Finnin clearly won’t be the most useful style for Juan, but does Lucinda really need to adopt one style for each different person?
Not quite—as with most things in leadership, it’s not quite that simple. Rather than using one style for each person, being effective means adopting a combination of styles:
- Some people are inspired enough when you successfully communicate your vision, but providing them with a clear framework is also crucial if they need guidelines regarding specific actions.
- Simultaneously, they may suffer from self-doubt in certain other areas. Here you can help them by supporting and encouraging them.
- At other times, you may need to push your colleagues by providing clear instructions around tasks and the results you hope to achieve. This might involve offering feedback when they go wrong or helping them understand how mistakes happen.
- Finally, everyone needs encouragement and positive feedback. A 5:1 ratio of compliments to criticism is a good balance to aim for and can help keep teammates motivated while helping them make changes to improve their performance.
Over To You
Are you ready to take a deep dive into what your employees need?
We created the Effective Leadership workbook to help you answer this exact question. This workbook was designed specifically for leaders and includes four simple tools that you can use to identify the styles that your employees require so that you can help them succeed.
Using these tools, you’ll be able to lead more effectively by marking the one, two, or even four styles that help each team member perform at their best. You’ll learn to take a look at:
- The leadership interaction styles that feel most natural for you to use (and which you may use the most often) and
- The leadership interaction styles that you want to develop further (styles that one or more team members need but that you only use to a limited extent.)
If you’re excited to take your team to the next level by leveling up your own leadership game, click here to download Effective Leadership today. I’ll happily help you on your mission by answering any questions you might have. Happy leading!