Do you know who you are as a leader? How can the type of person you are impact how you are performing with employees and peers?
I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. We were discussing leadership types and styles. I shared my thoughts on the topic. Much of it aligned with what I have written in this blog over the years, as well as in my book, Creatives Lead. As the conversation progressed, my friend shared some additional views. I found the perceptiveness of her remarks worth sharing.
In any communication, context and definitions are crucial to the understanding of both parties. In this conversation, while we were examining leadership “types” and “styles”, we agreed on the following definitions:
Leader Type = who you are; a grouping of shared characteristics
Leader Style = delivery; the manner of doing
There are several things that can form you into the leader you are are today. There are likely more, but these are the top three areas that you will find yourself defaulting to as a leader and person: personal (often based on how and where you were brought up), generational (often based on when you were brought up), and cultural (based upon the national and familial culture in which you were raised).
What was your family of origin like growing up? Did you have siblings or were you an only child? Where were you in the birth-order? Did you live in a stable parental environment? How was conflict dealt with in your home? Were feelings ever discussed? How well do you related to your parents and siblings today? Was there healthy communication in your home?
All these elements factor into the person you are today. They either formed you, deformed you, or drove you to change. As a leader, you have to be in touch with yourself. Why? Because, when you are under stress you will often revert to what was modeled for you as you grew up. If your family bottled up emotions and never talked about issues, guess what? You are likely going to do the same when issues present themselves in your life and work. If your family exploded over disappointments and unmet expectations, guess what? You are likely to do the same unless you are in touch with yourself.
When you grew up can have a huge impact on you as a leader. Think about the various generations and what world events were happening at the time. The events formed founding leaders in many of the companies around today. For instance, United Parcel Service (UPS) was founded by nineteen year-old James E. Casey and his friend in 1907. World War 1 later began in 1914. James’ younger brother, George Casey, joined UPS after getting out of the Navy at the end of the war. It is said “he was one of the greatest contributors to the fashioning of UPS character…”. Is it any wonder ex-military personnel and leaders of the time helped form a shipping and logistics company that is still around today? The military knows discipline and logistics and so does UPS.
Your cultural heritage and norms impact you as a person and leader. A recent diversity course (offered in America) highlighted some of these distinctions that can impact you as a leader. What was presented was not extensive, but a sampling. See if any of these resonate with you:
Hispanic-American Cultural Norms = collectivism, strong family ties, collaboration, indirect communication, and people oriented.
African-American Cultural Norms = cultural uniqueness, assertive and expressive, strong family bonds, highly social, and people oriented.
Asian-American Cultural Norms = collectivism, collaboration, respectful, respect for elders, and respect for authority.
White-American Cultural Norms = individualism, future focus, competitive, direct communication, and task oriented.
As you can see, there are several factors that impact the type of leader you are, or will become. Do you feel you are effective as a leader? Ask your peers and team to evaluate and give you honest feedback. If you are training leaders, be sensitive to the type of leader you are and the types your upcoming leaders are. Think about how they fit with team and company culture. Next, let’s look at your leadership style.
As you think about your style of leadership, you will no doubt factor in the type of leader you are. What you will also want to look at is how various work situations and the company culture impact your method and style of delivery.
As stated above, when you are under stress it will impact how you deliver communication (verbal and non-verbal) to the team. Likewise, when you are happy or excited, you communicate differently. Some leaders deliver with intent and some deliver as a reaction.
Depending on the situation, you may need to modulate your leadership style (see Creatives Lead, chapter 23). More often, your leadership style should be a healthy reflection of you, regardless of the situations going on around you.
It is amazing how company culture impacts delivery. I have seen first-hand how this works. For large companies (national and international), the culture can vary from country to country, state to state, city to city, and even building to building. One organization, I observed, has a very top-down leadership style at it’s corporate headquarters. There is significant red-tape as leaders find themselves in a CYA (cover your a$$) environment–constantly having to justify their decisions with endless emails and often passing the blame when things go wrong. I have seen some of these leaders transferred to others cities to work for the same company and experience culture shock. The culture is different in another city. Where there was posturing before, now there is healthy debate. Team members are not afraid of being micromanaged because there is trust. Thoughts can be voiced without fear of retaliation.
Needless to say, the conversation I had with my friend was engaging. We both came away with many things to consider about our leadership type and style–who we are at our core and how we deliver (or present) ourselves to teammates and peers.
I hope, as a leader, you too found this of interest. Take a look at yourself. Do you like your leadership type and style? Does your team? What are some things you would change? Let me know in the comments section below.