It’s time for the Agile Leader
Advancement in technology and Covid-19 has sped up change, including leadership styles. Customers want to participate in the marketing and development process; employees want more ownership rather than to follow instruction and leaders are finding that open and agile businesses are able to pivot more effectively than old school organizations where top down leadership applied previously.
It goes without mention that our history has shaped the leaders we have today. The stories of John Chambers and his meticulous eye for detail, to Steve Ballmer yelling at his employees to stand up to his attention at a Microsoft event. These leaders accomplished great things and relied heavily on a “command and control” style, they were set in their ways and it worked back then. However, these leaders gave very little time to listen, learn, empathize and reflect regularly to ensure their values and purpose were still relevant; in-turn their time in position had an end date. In short, the oppressive commander, whether brilliant or misguided, just won’t cut it anymore.
So, what is a leader to do given this new agile age? There are many types of leadership, and success is usually built by being able to move fluidly between styles as the situation merits. Some will remain as the “commander” such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos (after all they are both extremely influential figures in tech to date) others will adapt to the task at hand and utilize the other styles, allowing them to compete with the competition and get the best from there teams.
So, what are the other styles and how can they help you?
The Visionary is also sometimes called charismatic, strategic, inspirational, or authoritative. The visionary leader will focus on conveying the overall vision of the company, department, or project. Leaders who are naturally charismatic and outgoing will find it easier to adopt this style. It will also require a leader who has a willingness to take risks and the ability to lead and manage change. A true visionary leader such as, Nelson Mandela, the face and leader of the Anti-Apartheid movement. Through his determination, Mandela successfully led his country to liberation. He relied on his charismatic nature and important vision, to motivate people to bring change without dictating their actions.
The Transactional Manager focuses on using positive rewards such as incentives and bonuses to motivate employees to improve their performance. For instance, transactional managers may rely on piece-work pay to incentivize their employees to produce more. Similarly, they may structure bonuses around employee performance. If you are looking to promote creativity or innovation, this probably isn’t the best style to choose as the rewards are tied directly to known results.
The Coach focuses on supporting your employees. Managers who embrace this style spend their time, coaching, mentoring, and supporting their team. They see their role as one of an adviser or coach rather than a dictator or rule enforcer. A great example of this is Balfour Beatty CEO Eric Stenman who firmly believes that’s the way business should be done. Stenmans focus has always been on the personal and professional success of all his employees.
The Pacesetter leads from the front and sets the standards. As a manager, you provide instructions and set a work pace, and then expect your employees to follow in your footsteps. Typically, pacesetting involves setting high or hard to reach standards in an effort to drive your team to achieve new bests and hit bigger goals. A prime example of a pacesetter is Jack Welch CEO of General Electric. Whilst he effectively led the company for twenty years, his demanding pace did earn himself some negative press and the nickname “Neutron Jack”
The Democrat is a leader who encourages idea sharing and regular employee participation. The focus is on encouraging your team to share their thoughts, ideas and suggestions and sometimes solutions in order to help the business and each other out. The old saying that two heads are better than one plays a role in this style an ensures everyone deserves to have a say no matter their position or title. Although Richard Branson could be seen a “Visionary” he is also a “Democratic” Leader who considers all of his employees equal and all to share ideas. Richard also takes their feedback and suggestions on his own management style, allowing him to continuously improve and adapt his leadership style.
So, which style(s) would suit you? And will it work?
That’s for you to decide, no one is a born leader; they’re made by the choices and experiences they have and along the way there will be a need for change in recipe, adaptation to method and possibly a more modern piece of equipment is required to get the job done in the most effective time possible.
Leaders need to continue on a path of growth as individuals and professionals. As the famous saying goes “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, as the world changes we need to adapt because similarly “If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward”. Having the right management style is not only good for your own self-awareness, but in turn it has the ability to; encourage employees to become more engaged; resulting in greater collaboration; reduced staff turnover; increased productivity and therefore increased profitability and revenue…because after all it’s a dog eat dog world out there, ever more so in these un-certain times, only the agile will survive!