Mark was a very effective leader. Typically assigned to projects that are mission-critical and tight on time and budget, he wasn’t the easiest person to work for but he certainly got the job done. The company loved him. Most employees didn’t.
Eventually, the high profile, stress-filled projects that Mark was so great at had dried up. Things were moving well in the organization and while the projects were large and important, they didn’t require the ‘Mark approach’ anymore. It didn’t take long for Mark to find the door and look for more stressful pastures.
Today’s question is: could Bruce have changed his leadership style to suit the new environment?
To make life simple let’s divide leadership styles into three broad groups: Autocratic (Bruce), participative and delegating?
Could our autocratic leader change his style to one of a more participative or delegating leader?
Catherine Daw, in the book the keys to our success, suggests that the best leaders are able to move between the three dominant leadership styles. The poor leaders generally will stick to the one style where they are most comfortable.
I agree that the very best leaders should be able to change their style but I question that this is really possible. I think your leadership style is ingrained in your DNA. You can dial up your style or dial it down and you should be able to do so easily. But to change your stripes? I think this is really tough.
In my one day workshop “From a Good Manager to a Great Leader”, we talk about the real world and how we must be able to change our style from not only one project to another but even midway through a project. As the environment changes so must we. Not easy for most as I suggest, but possible.
The key to changing your style between or within projects is communicating, communicating, and communicating. You need to take the time at the front end of a project to make sure your team knows exactly the type of leader you are or will be. If you need to changes your style midway through it is imperative to communicate with your team explaining the reasons for the change and how it’s all going to look moving forward. Your team members don’t necessarily need to be comfortable with your style but they do need to know what you are all about as a leader.
If I were required to change my leadership style dramatically, pre or mid project, I would be looking for an inside resource to help me through the transition. A partner near to the ground with eyes all around can never hurt a leader trying to play in new environments.
Whether you are an autocratic, participative or a delegating type of leader, you should aim at being known as the leader that can adjust to any environment or project. It will take a lot of work and some honest input and feedback but this is what will define you as a great leader.
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