Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > when it comes to leadership, one size does not fit all

when it comes to leadership, one size does not fit all

I’m talking about effective leadership here rather than use other adjectives like good or great. This week I am writing about leadership that works in that it gets people following. To digress for a moment, the term following is something of an ambiguous concept here because, in most cases, the followers are usually in the van doing the things that the leader steers them to do, but the leader getting behind the followers, watching their backs, is as much a part of leadership as anything else.

It may be a slightly abstract concept, but the leader is not necessarily in front with their followers behind when it comes to the execution of the leader’s plan, and that does need to be understood. You can still lead from the front, sometimes you have to, and other times it’s just good to do so, but most of the time you will in the rear. Good leaders learn this, great ones do it intuitively.

Back at effective leadership though, the point that I wanted to make this week is around styles of leadership. Everyone is an individual and has their own motivational triggers; some will respond best to flattery, some to bribery, some, odd as it may seem on the surface, to bullying (please don’t interpret that as me being in favour of such things). Understanding individual needs is very important in a small team where you need every member to have total trust in each other as well as in the leader. In a larger team it is good for the leader to know all of their team, but such things take time and effort that might be better deployed on other things in the short term.

The crucial need is to instil in the team a feeling that individual failures are acceptable because the trust and support within the team will compensate. There is a point at which the desire to not let your colleagues down kicks in and drives performance up, but that comes from knowing that you can fail whilst believing that you won’t because people have shown confidence in you.

One of the easiest leadership tasks is taking over a team with low morale or who are faced with adverse circumstances. Here a siege mentality can be created without too much effort and an “us against the rest” spirit flows through your team. One of the problems with this approach is getting out of it once you’ve got the team firing on all cylinders because it has dangers in the long run. Using a little paranoia to kick start things is all very well, but you do need to ensure that it is quickly replaced by the confidence that will come as positive results flow in.

Overcoming fear of failure is one of the hardest things to do, but it can be done. Fear of failure will paralyse even the best team. If you allow people to fail and deal with those failures in a positive way they start to lose the fear of failing, but it goes beyond the individual; you need to have that collective feeling within the team that people will cover for each other. As long as everyone can see and believe that all are doing their best, that mistakes are dealt with positively (and that includes dealing with some things in a disciplinary sense when the need arises), then fear of failure starts to fade from the culture.

There is no one leadership model; as a leader you have to be able to understand what will work best in any set of circumstances.

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