I’ve been fortunate to lead some incredible teams and groups of people. Seeing these teams achieve their goals and come together as individuals has brought tremendous value to my life. As others have seen and sensed this, the question that I’m asked the most is “what’s your leadership style?”
I always respond exactly the same: “Whatever is needed.” When you’re leading, perhaps the first thing you need to understand is that leadership is about the people on your team and in your organization. It’s not about you. In order to effectively lead people, you need to understand them: how they think, how they operate, etc. so that you can tailor your activities and behaviors to maximize their performance. Each person may require something totally different. For instance, one person may be motivated by kind, reinforcing words, and others may best respond a bit harsher motivation. The point is that your join is to move individuals collectively, which means that you need to be a bit of a chameleon in terms of how you lead them.
Years ago, I was working at a company that was in the midst of personnel changes. A new executive was taking over a team populated by many individuals that I was close with. I knew that these were hardworking individuals, committed to each other and their mission. The team had good processes in place in terms of meeting cadence and communication methods; things that were working well for them and contributing to achievement of goals. In his first meeting with the team, the new executive in charge used the session to explain to the team how he operated, how he communicated and how he expected the team to interact with each other and with him. He then recommended they read a book that detailed his style. I don’t fully recall the name of the book. It was something to the effect of “How to Talk to a King.”
Unsurprisingly, the team’s performance fell apart and they fell short of their mission at a time when the company dearly needed them to be successful. The individuals on this team, and the company, will never get this time back. That’s why it’s so important to get these things right as a leader. Time is such a finite resource and it’s the one thing we can never create. As leaders we must do everything we can to protect this time and to use it wisely.
When you find yourself in a new leadership situation, make the effort learn about the individuals and to create a fully adaptive approach to account their unique traits before introducing anything different. When teams operate cohesively, there’s a high ceiling on what they can achieve.