Monday, August 16, 2010

The Leadership Style I Prefer

There are many different leadership styles, but I'm going to focus on my preference in this space today.  When my kids were younger, I coached their baseball, basketball and softball teams.  From 1983 - 1989, I was a partner in a software company and we employed 1 programmer.  Prior to that, I was Vice President of a small software company and had about 7 direct reports.  For the last 15 years of employment, I was in a management position.  As an athlete for 40 years, I was always a leader on my team, so I have experienced leadership from my different facets of life.

Remember those new jobs that you have had?  When you first started waiting tables, did you know how to do it?  Or, when you graduated college and entered the Corporate world, had college prepared you for the "real world?"  You still needed "on the job training" when you started.   It gets easier as you go to your second, third and fourth jobs in the same field.  But, if you change careers, the learning process starts over.

Ask yourself:  If I was the new employee or associate, would I want ME as a leader?  When you can honestly answer, YES, to that question, then you are on the right path to leadership.

I prefer to be a coach or mentor, not a boss.  People that want to learn from you, want someone who:
  • Provides training and shares techniques 
  • Makes learning interesting
  • Listens to them
  • Allows them to fail 
  • Celebrates their successes
  • Comes along beside of them (mentor)
  • Challenges them

One of the most important points I could give someone about leadership would be this - "Don't tell someone how to do something--show them."  There is a huge difference between telling someone what to do and showing them how to do it.  If someone has never down something before, how can you expect them to know how to do it, unless you show them?  This definitely applies in parenting, coaching and being a leader.

Remember the programmer I said I employed earlier.  Several years later, I reconnected with that person and he thanked me for the opportunity he had to learn programming while working for me.  He said, "I would ask you if this code would work, and you would say "I don't know--try it and find out."  He said that he learned a lot from having to find out for himself.  At the point that I responded that way (try it and find out), I had already provided a lot of training for him and I knew what the answer was, but I knew that experiencing the success or failure provides a more lasting lesson than just providing a quick answer.  I mention that to say that coaching, or mentoring, should only go so far.  At some point, the person that has been trained, has to put that training into practice and see what works for them.  But, that doesn't mean that your job as a leader is over at that point.  After they attempt to apply the principles learned, they are going to have additional questions, based on the feedback they received.  Training can't address every situation, so they will need suggestions on how to handle specific situations as they present themselves.

In network marketing, a lot of people consider themselves leaders, but the only way they encourage their partners is with words like, "Go make it happen!", or "Make something happen!", or "Just get out among people and share with them."  Those words are not "empowering."  People that have never done it before need to be trained on what to say, and how to say it.  You can only "empower" a person by providing training on "how to's."  If your training an experienced person, that's very different.  They only need to be trained on what makes your company unique and other points of emphasis.

A good leader is not "a boss."  I really like the concept of "mentor", which I see as someone coming along side of someone and assisting them in developing their skills.  That means that when they need help, you will be there to support them.  They can get out and do things on their own, but when they indicate that they need help, you don't say "You ought to know that by now."

Feel free to post comments on what you like to see in a leader.  Have a great day!

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