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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 April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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