I have a question for you: How do you rate yourself as a leader?
In asking this question of people at leadership seminars through the years, I’ve found that most leaders rank their leadership style as at least an 8 on a scale of 10. Seldom do they give themselves a low mark.
However, when the tables are turned and people are asked to rank their boss’s leadership style, many grade their leaders as being merely adequate. At worst, some are seen as office autocrats who depend heavily on the often-referenced “seagull management” technique as their sole line of attack — they leave their people alone until something goes wrong, and then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump all over everyone, and fly out.
Why this discrepancy? Many leaders lull themselves into thinking their leadership style is top notch because they think they use either a supportive or a coaching style, which are believed to be good. But this is not necessarily the way they are seen by the people in their department or organization.
A Good Leadership Style Involves Listening
It is often difficult for a leader to get an accurate answer about how he or she rates with direct reports. Employees are sharp observers. For instance, a person may have gone to his leader in the past and made an honest suggestion such as, “Karen, I think our Thursday afternoon meetings are a waste of time.” If the supervisor answered with an outburst, saying, “What do you mean, a waste of time? Are you kidding? Those meetings are important,” it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the leader wasn’t interested in hearing the truth.
As a supervisor, it is important for you to remember that when your people tell you what they honestly think about your style of leadership, they’re really giving you a gift. When someone gives you a gift, what is the first thing you should say? “Thank you,” of course! It’s a very good idea to follow that up by saying, “Is there anything else you think I should know?”
When people learn that you won’t become defensive or hostile when they give you an honest evaluation about your style, you’ll find that you’ll gain a great deal of valuable information. My advice: Encourage people to give feedback at the office, and to give often!
Just remember, there is no one “correct” leadership style. How your direct reports respond to your style is what matters. If you are getting a consistently positive response — high productivity and morale — then you’re doing just fine. If not, you may need to ask for some feedback. Then look in the mirror and make some changes for the greater good.
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