When we are asked to think about strong leadership styles and strong leaders many of us conjure up images of someone who makes pronouncements and never goes back on their decisions. They know the right thing to do and expect people to simply get on with doing what they are told. I do wonder just how relevant this really is?
The many business biographies that are published each year only serve to reinforce this stereotype. Maybe this is more of a Western phenomenon than a global one and of course it could be that such stories are what are needed to sell books. Nevertheless, the real danger is that when leadership as a topic is covered in Business Schools and in the training provided to those who are likely to take up leadership positions, these approaches are often discussed at length.
So what is strong leadership all about?
Is it being strong to not listen to what others are telling you and simply go along with your own ideas and decisions based on very little information? Is it strong leadership to over-talk everyone at meetings just because the culture you have created means that they have to listen to you because you are the boss? Are you a strong leader if you blame others for not delivering work in the way that you expected them to despite the fact that they were never involved in the development? Well, to some this may be just what strong leadership is all about – taking decisions, having the authority and taking responsibility for outcomes. Maybe.
How strong as an individual and a leader do you have to be to:
- listen to the views of others especially when their knowledge and experience outweighs yours?
- let others at meetings have their say on topics they have a legitimate interest in?
- involve others in the development of new pieces of work so that they have a thorough understanding of what’s intended?
I would argue that it takes a much stronger leader and maybe character, to engage with their people in ways that could leave them vulnerable or open to accusations of ‘not knowing everything’. At the end of the day leaders need to ask themselves one fundamental question:
“What am I here to achieve?”
If the answer to this question can really be achieved by taking an approach that ignores and demeans everyone around them then why do they need to lead anyone at all (and they need to reconsider their answer). If their answer to the question makes them realize how they need to work better with their people to achieve business goals then they are far more likely to become a strong and engaged leader that will deliver sustainable results.
How strong a leader are you?