Understand and Share Your Own Leadership StyleBy Bill & Chris Sitter
Article Date: 11-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
When your staff know what to expect from you, you are far more likely to get what you expect from them.
Successful executives in the heavy equipment industry have developed individual styles of leadership that work for them. For many, the approach to leadership has evolved as we’ve seen others succeed and fail and as we tried methods that achieved varying degrees of success. This brief article will focus on the need for leaders to comprehend their own predominant style and to then explain to their associates just how they like to lead and, therefore, what things really matter to them.
First, let’s clarify that "management" is a role or title based on a spot on a company org chart. True leadership is far more than the fact of having responsibilities to "manage" direct and indirect reports. Successful leaders come in all sizes and shapes, but they can easily be identified as people who take their teams forward, in both good and in trying times. And, no – there is no cookie-cutter mold from which exemplary leaders are made.
Rich Ensman wrote a 2005 article for the February issue of Rental Management magazine titled, "A Glossary of Leadership." He identified a large number of basic leadership styles, including leadership by: Coaching, Competition, Data Driven, Empowerment, Example, Exception, Model, Objectives, Process, Relationships, Service, Situation, Teamwork, and finally, by Vision.
During Jordan-Sitter Associate’s 30-plus years of working with and recruiting senior level managers, we have experienced accomplished and respected ladies and gentlemen who have led both distribution and equipment manufacturing companies using various combinations of these 14 styles. And the most effective have wisely come to grips with the knowledge that no single style of leadership is perfect for every company or for dealing with every member of their own team, and certainly not appropriate in every situation.
Since fall is football season, and here in the heart of Texas folks are football crazy, let’s consider how two coaches might react after a weekend game. Coach A’s team got drubbed by their opponent and the players are really dejected. Coach B enjoyed seeing his team execute plays to near perfection, which led to a key win against an arch rival. In these two situations, we would all agree that two very different leadership approaches are called for. As obvious as this is, unfortunately some business leaders (caught in the heat of the battle) may fail to modify their leadership techniques from when sales are booming to a darn tough business climate.
Since most CED readers are probably leading departments or whole companies, we expect them to identify with two, three or even four of Ensman’s leadership styles, and that’s just fine. But what about those people who report to you? Those you lead on a day-to-day basis – do they really know where you are coming from, or do they have to learn it the hard way? For example, if my boss lets me know that he needs lots of data to support a decision, I will be better prepared for our next project status meeting. However, a process focused leader may really want/need to know where we are on the step-by-step path toward reaching our established objectives. If I report to a situational leader, I need to realize that the approach will vary depending on the time pressure and the importance of an objective. By knowing this, I will not be alarmed when the boss turns up the heat at crunch times, while her normal style might be more empowering or "softer," and more relationship-based.
Suffice it to say that each leadership style or combination of styles significantly impacts the members of a department and the associates of an entire business enterprise. So, our advice is pretty straightforward and based on years of in-the-field observations: Please take the time to let your direct reports really understand what is important and motivates you and how you like to lead. This simple act of sharing will improve communications, reduce internal stress, and help you optimize the performance of your company. We believe that this approach alone will help committed and caring leaders move toward a genuine long-term "win-win."
By the way, when hiring future leaders, we strongly encourage hiring authorities to make a concerted effort to really comprehend the candidate’s dominant leadership style and take time to share your own approach to leadership, and thus avoid some potentially huge incompatibility issues from the get-go. Your interviews, and especially meaningful reference checking, are keys to this hiring step. Understand and Share Your Own Leadership Style When your staff know what to expect from you, you are far more likely to get what you expect from them.
Jordan-Sitter Associates is an executive search firm focused primarily on the equipment industry. Bill Sitter served as president of an AED dealership and is a past president of San Antonio’s AED Chapter. Bill, Chris, and our new partner, Jerry Randecker, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 210-651-5561.
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