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5 TED Talks That Will Mold You Into A Competent Leader

5 TED Talks That Will Mold You Into A Competent Leader

Whether you’re a business owner or a leader of any kind, these 5 TED talks will inspire you to break free of old expectations and lead from a wiser, more informed perspective. Watch each talk at the links below for a fresh set of ideas on leadership and problem solving in the workplace.

1. Productivity doesn’t happen when you think.

Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work, by Jason Fried, unravels a surprising trend in the workplace – not getting work done. Fried asked several professionals where they went when they needed to get some work done. The responses he received included places like the kitchen, the bedroom, the train, and the coffee shop. But not one person said “the office.” This led Fried to the assertion that “M&Ms” (managers and meetings) are screwing with workers’ productivity. He cautions against pointless meetings, insisting that if everyone had a little more alone time at work, we’d all get a lot more done.

“Businesses are spending all this money on this place called the office, and they’re making people go to it all the time – yet people don’t do work in the office. What’s that about?”

Watch it

2. Money isn’t always the best motivator.

The Puzzle of Motivation, by Dan Pink, breaks down a scientific experiment that showed the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. While you’d think that money and other extrinsic motivators spur workers to achieve more, this is not always the case. According to the research, these incentives work well for basic tasks that require narrow focus. But when it comes to complex problems, the rules totally reverse.

“There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.”

Watch it

3. Companies are investing in leaders, but not producing them.

What it Takes to be a Great Leader, by Roselinde Torres, delves into what we can call a “leadership gap.” The puzzling fact is that companies are investing in leadership more than ever, but not seeing the results. Torres claims this is happening because companies are not growing a diverse enough network, or changing strategy when they need to.

“Prepare yourself, not for the comfortable predictability of yesterday, but for the realities of today and all of those unknown possibilities of tomorrow.”

Watch it

4. It’s not all about you.

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe, by Simon Sinek, covers a rarely discussed aspect of leadership: safety. Sinek discusses how great military leaders put themselves second, sacrificing their comfort zone to support and instill confidence in their troops. For business leaders, It’s not just about utilizing the best startup resources, grabbing the right talent, or working within the perfect budget. Rather, it’s about gaining the trust of your subordinates, so that they, in turn, feel empowered to do their best work.

“This is the reason so many people have a visceral hatred for banking CEOs with disproportionate salaries…It’s not the numbers. It’s that they allowed their people to be sacrificed to protect their own interests.”

Watch it

5. Nurture your first followers

How to Start a Movement, by Derek Sivers, dissects a hilarious YouTube video of a spontaneous dance party that grows from one individual to dozens. The takeaway of this talk is the importance of early followers. As a lone leader, you must recognize that the only true way to gain credibility is to gain your first follower. This person or group of persons sets the stage for others to feel comfortable joining your movement. It grants you credibility. By treating your early followers as equals, you show them (and others) that joining you is a safe decision.   

“it’s the first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”

Watch it

Featured photo credit: urban_data via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of leadership and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

        More Leadership Tips

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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