startups and code

Leadership Styles - In a new world.

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Leadership, the word triggers all sorts of reactions.  CEO, presidents, generals, etc... There are many types of leaders and because of that there are multiple leadership styles.  People often debate on the new styles of leadership, how to lead, and how to help others to learn how to lead.  From my experience, it often boils down to 4 primary styles.  The military leader, the social leader, the number leader, and the invisible leader.

The military leader is the easiest to explain.  Having been in the army, I experienced this leadership style first hand and was trained in the tactics involved.  It often was a simple, "do this or else".  The consequences became more severe based on the situation.  Disobeying a direct order during war-time, could result in death.  However, talking back to an arrogant Lt would get you on yard detail.  The chain of command had a rigid setup and you knew your place, regardless if you liked it or not.  A higher ranking person would give you an order (or directive for you technical people out there) and you would obey.  Technically that is a form of leadership.  It requires a level of obedience/compliance from all directs.  It is often created by immediate and swift consequences.  A valuable tactic in appropriate situations, but I would not recommend it in a typical workplace, school, or church function.

The next type of leader is the social leader.  This is a person that gathers information, shares openly his information, and works hard to make sure people communicate openly.  They are the life of the party, they are often very happy people (or at least perceived that way).  They build a following because they make any event more fun.  This is very common in a college/school situation, fraternity/sorority, and certain corporate events.  They lead by entertainment.  If people were asked if you would trust them to make a life/death decision, the answer more often would be no.  They have followers and gather information from others in social atmosphere.  They know they may not have every decision, but they believe they could ask their "friends" on what the decision should be.  They gather consensus, they entertain, and they often distract.  They use humor to alleviate tension and help others reach the right decision with less conflict.  It is definitely a style to adopt and hone, but the key to this as with all styles, is to know when to apply it so you can still be the life/death decision maker with the utmost confidence.

The third style is the number leader.  As you would have guessed, they are often corporate leaders in their industry.  They rely heavily on metrics, numbers, and quantitative analysis to defend their decisions.  They have dashboards, graphs, and numbers to explain how to improve ROI, decrease inefficiencies, and can present to large audiences with ease.  They are supported by proven numbers, not by instinct, and not by subordinates.  They are often highly successful by presenting facts to board members.  They are horrible risk takers, and they often mitigate everything with contingency plans, and plan c,d,e and f.  They don't like surprises and are shocked when someone leaves an organization when they have a dashboard explaining their happiness and that they should continue to work.  The number leader lacks the human factor in dealing with people.  They are ideal for any repetitive process that can use improvement.  They don't understand why people don't appreciate their facts.  It is a valuable skill to have to know how to gather those numbers, but to rely on those solely is often a huge mistake for this type of leader.

The final style is the invisible leader.  These are the leaders that work for an amazing company and everyone loves the direction of the company.  If you were to ask the employees about the leadership you would often hear, "I see them around a lot, but I'm not sure what they do" or "they are super nice and approachable, they must be happy to work here too.".   They solve problems before the become problems.  They understand the value of numbers to upper management, and the value of listening to all employees.  They respond to requests and give all the credit to the teams for having the ideas and solutions.  They trust their employees completely because they know they can't do it all themselves.  They respect upper management, but push back when needed.  They are often not noticed by subordinates but respected simply because of what they do one on one, in low visibility situations.  I call them the invisible leaders, because people are going in the right direction and are generally happy, and have no idea why, but they just accept it as a great experience.  The invisible leader leads one on one, and not in large groups.  He provides feedback and suggestions then lets the employee take or ignore that suggestion.  It is often the employee who provides the solution simply be stating what was suggested.  They create a great culture, they predict problems before the escalate, and they do one thing very well.  They listen.  It is listening that gets them the respect and trust that is not earned over night.

All in all, we all have a leadership style inside of us, and it is usually a combination of all of these.  It is knowing when to apply the military, present the numbers, and play the social that creates that invisible leadership.  Micro-managing is dead.  Controlling employees is just silly.  Hiring great passionate people is key.  Certain skills can be taught, but changing personalities is quite difficult (not impossible though).  So my questions to you are these:  What is your leadership style?  Is there another style you think I left out?  How are you leading your teams in the right direction?

Thanks for stopping by... :-)