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Productive Leadership Or Not? Your Choice

Dec 17 2018

Good, productive leadership is hard to find.

Over the past month I have worked for businesses exhibiting completely different leadership styles – from poor to excellent.

There are key learnings from each scenario. For easy reference, allow me to label them as follows:

  1. “Mr Nice Guy”” leadership
  2. “The Iron Fist” leadership and
  3. “Leading with Humility”


Mr Nice Guy Leadership

“Mr Nice Guy” was very pleasant to deal with. In fact he was nice to everyone.

However, where was the discipline when people fell out of line; when standards were breached? What were the standards anyway? Who was keeping people accountable to those standards?

The result: high levels of team disengagement, bullying and silos between departments.

This business was like a ship that is moving, not sure what direction it was heading on any given day. In fact, we are not sure where the rudder is!! Going in circles was commonplace for this organisation.


Iron Fist Leadership

“Iron Fist leadership” is the opposite. In this business I am working with, there’s one person in charge and we all know who that is. Just don’t step out of line or suggest an idea that is better than his!

His leadership reminds me of a great book “The Flight of the Buffalo” by James Belasco & Ralph Stayer.

Kill the Alpha male bull and the herd are totally lost having been dependent on this type of dictatorial leader for such a long time.

The result: the ‘death’ of passion and engagement.


Leading with Humility

The final client I have worked with impressed me with his humility.

This was a family business, with the leader having a powerful passion for doing the best for his business. He often spoke about the pride in his workers. For him, his 250+ staff were all “family”.

“Like family, we have our differences, but somehow we are able to have open, honest discussions without getting offended and defensive. It encourages new ideas and innovation.”

Unlike our buffalo above, this leader was more about leading the geese, flying on the lift and encouragement of other geese.

Leaders who have enough humility to look in the leadership mirror tend to take employees with them on the journey to excellence and highly performing teams.

When working with their leadership, I was impressed by their gratitude and passion they showed for learning more about and growing their EQ (Emotional Intelligence). Impressive when most of them were engineers and technical people!

They were definitely a “Professional Team” rather than simply a “Team of Professionals”

Richard Branson learnt some lessons early in life about the power of “looking in the mirror”

“When I was a kid, I had a tendency to criticise. But when I did, my mum would whisk me off to the bathroom to stand in front of a mirror, ten minutes, never less, to think about how criticism is a poor reflection on the one who criticises.” – Richard Branson


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