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Why Faking Leadership Is Doomed to Fail

Why Faking Leadership Is Doomed to Fail

Being an authentic leader requires self-reflection, an understanding of the expectations of your subordinates, and a firm grasp of your context. Different leadership styles can be effective in particular circumstances. For example, a drill instructor is expected to intimidate his or her recruits through an aggressive leadership style. If a schoolteacher used the same methods, he or she would be out of a job.

Part of the challenge of leading from a place of authenticity is understanding which approach is best for a given situation.[1] If you've ever witnessed a manager offer a tone-deaf response, you know that a leader's style can have major impacts on company culture.

There are many ways to classify leaders, but Daniel Goleman's [2] designations provide a valuable framework for our purposes.[3] You may see yourself in one or more of these styles.

Here are the 6 types of leadership styles.

Pacesetting leader

This type sets a rigorous standard for others to follow. Pacesetters work alongside their team with the intention of executing a specific objective. They have no tolerance for team members lagging behind.

Pacesetting leaders excel in the military. In this case, the team's ability to perform as a unit affects the success and safety of the mission. Ambitious entrepreneurs and high-level leadership also have this level of urgency and insistence upon meeting high standards.

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When your team is adequately prepared and you need something done quickly, this approach is most effective. This style is more concerned with forward motion than heaping on praise, which means that team members will need to be confident in their duties. Continual use of the pace-setting leader model without including other approaches can cause employee burnout. Inexperienced team members may become frustrated by limited opportunities to receive positive feedback.

Authoritative leader

Sometimes known as the visionary leader, this style is firmly grounded in a vision. Some of the most recognizable innovators, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey[4] count themselves among the ranks of authoritative leaders.

This position is helpful if you are pioneering an approach. Your vision represents your values and those of your company. In the face of uncertainty, you stayed grounded in your vision. This leadership style is not effective when your team members have more experience than you.

Affiliative leader

If you consider getting to know your employees to be an important part of your leadership style, then you likely possess the qualities of an affiliative leader. This style necessitates compassion and good listening skills. These leaders see workers as people first.

If your organization has experienced an upheaval, this caring approach can put your culture back on track. The manager that has regular one-on-one meetings with staff members and takes the time to listen to their concerns embodies this style. This approach breeds loyalty because it provides encouragement and makes employees feel understood.

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If your style is too soft, you risk breeding apathy. To prevent slacking performance, you will need incorporate other leadership styles to help you demonstrate the importance of high-quality work outputs.

Coaching leader

Even though coaching requires a greater time commitment for leaders up front, the rewards are a major return on investment. Coaching creates a positive work environment in which people use feedback and support to improve their performance.

Employees and leaders who approach their work with a growth mindset[5] are more likely to feel affirmed and buy into the organizational mission. This collaborative approach does not work well if you need results in a hurry, and it is not effective if workers are unwilling to engage.

Coercive leader

The coercive leader, like a drill instructor, does not leave room for debate — they simply want their workers to follow instructions as quickly and effectively as possible. Using this approach for extended periods of time will have a negative impact on morale.

Despite the potential for negative impact, there is an appropriate context for this leadership style. During an organizational crisis or emergency, workers need a leader who can act decisively. Employees who refuse to respond to collaborative approaches may fare better with a commanding leader.

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Democratic leader

When you solicit the buy-in of others, you empower them through democratic leadership.[6] Leading through votes or by committee can foster a positive work environment because workers feel that their concerns are taken into consideration.

This style can avoid the conflict among groups in which people wish to voice their opinions, but there are contexts in which this style will not be effective. A committee full of aggressive communicators might spend more time arguing than fulfilling their duties. If employees lack access to all the information necessary to make an informed decision, then this approach is unlikely to yield the best results. For projects that require a quick turnaround, you will need to exercise a more authoritative style.

A strong leader can always apply the right leadership style depends on situations.

A strong leader will need to be able to embody different leadership styles depending on their circumstances. Consulting this flowchart can help you understand which styles you identify with most and which aspects of your personal brand of leadership will require refinement.

With so many considerations for how one can lead, finding your authentic voice as a leader can seem overwhelming.[7] So here's what you can do.

Call in the SWOT team to help you lead best.

SWOT analysis can help you understand the best leadership style for you. SWOT, an acronym for "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats," [8] helps you understand your gifts and mitigate deficiencies. Knowing which leadership styles work best for you gives you a greater capacity to inspire workers and respond to challenges in the workplace.

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  • S – Strengths: What are the things that you can do better than anyone else? What are your greatest accomplishments? Based upon these strengths, you can narrow down the types of leadership that resonate with you the most. For example, if you are a patient, asset-based thinker, then you may find that you are most comfortable as a coaching leader.
  • W -Weaknesses: Are there certain types of interactions that you seem to flub every time? Do you have tasks that you avoid because you don't think that you do them well? In the context of finding your leadership style, this can help you understand the types of leadership that do not resonate with you. If you hate telling people what to do without providing lots of feedback, then a coercive style is going to be uncomfortable for you.
  • O – Opportunities: After you have a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, look for opportunities. Where are the places that you can use your strengths? Which leadership styles exploit your best characteristics? What can you do to improve your weaknesses? Can you attend training or find a mentor to help you improve?
  • T – Threats: External threats can impose limits on your leadership. Threats include prohibitive policies that prevent you from expressing your best leadership talents. Does the hyper-competitive environment prevent you from using coaching, affiliative, or democratic leadership techniques, which require greater time investments? Comparing the threats you face to the strengths and limitations of the leadership styles can help you find the strategy that maximizes your strengths in your environment.

Amplify your strengths, always.

After you perform a SWOT analysis, you'll have a good idea of your individual gifts, and you'll be more cognizant of your weaknesses as a leader. Knowing your weaknesses can help you avoid leadership styles that make you come off as disingenuous.

Mind your mentors.

Picture a person who epitomizes strong leadership style for you. Analyze their style using the SWOT model, and pinpoint what types of leadership they most closely represent. Acting as an observer can help you understand your own values as leaders.

And know thyself.

To be an authentic leader, you have to be yourself. Leslie Stein eloquently illustrates the gains that come from owning your truth.

If you try to adopt a style that doesn't fit your personality, it will be difficult to function in a leadership capacity. Workers can always spot a phony, and if they know that you don't believe in the way that you are leading, they will be less likely to respect you. Your authentic self is your greatest leadership asset.

As a leader, you will be faced with situations that require you to adopt specific approaches. With some self-study and a strong vision for your team, you can be yourself and take charge.

Reference

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Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

More About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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