How I Repainted My Leadership Style With Brighter Colours
Everyone is a leader at some point. This is what I learned by bringing simplicity into my life to ignite others.
How I Did More By Doing Less
Because we all feel better when we can drop the façade for a bit.
During this process, the main change was the acceptance of my own ignorance. In this post, I tell a story of how I discovered myself and used it as an opportunity to repaint my leadership style.
What’s the color of your leadership style?
How many of you would choose dark to reflect a strong authoritative style?
How many of you would rather choose a pale color for a dominant altruistic style?
How many would say it is rather a mix?
I used to ask myself this question when leading Richard (name changed), my teammate.
One day, I told him “Richard! I have an important client meeting early morning tomorrow. Can you please get the report ready by 7 am? You can probably make some export from the database quickly in the morning”.
Richard looked at me and said, “These days you are very bureaucratic and authoritative. Let me decide what I should do for breakfast myself”.
The Altruistic and Pale Side of Leadership
Well, I understood Richard’s surprise. A year back, Richard was used to my altruistic leadership.
Multiple times he would miss deadlines and tell me that his dog could not sleep the previous night. I would accommodate him.
Next time, he would have language mistakes in the report and justify it by the temporary unavailability of Google Translate service. I would accommodate him.
I knew almost everything about Richard, even struggles in his private life.
As an altruistic leader, I was focusing on active listening and empathy. I was leading in order to better serve others. This is to keep calm, keep digging, put all my energy into the digging, and trusting the process.
The Authoritative and Dark Side of Leadership
However, displaying emotions and vulnerability in the workplace was not paying off.
The more I invested emotions into work, the more people like Richard turned out to become irresponsible.
I concluded that it sums up to the business, cold and dark.
What I changed was to lead Richard by giving him clear direction and setting standards. I became an authoritative leader to him.
When Richard’s meeting didn’t start on time, I told him “You better start the meeting on time, otherwise, don’t expect me to attend this meeting next week”.
When he didn’t have a clean report, I told him “You better have no mistake in your report next week, otherwise, the meeting doesn’t start”.
Instead of doing the various work myself, I directed Richard to do his work effectively and made him do the work.
I assumed that the darker the night, the brighter will be the sunrise.
Moving Towards Mature And Bright Leadership
Richard’s reports became clean and delivered on time. He became a strong performer.
However, this transformation came at a price.
His dog disappeared from our office life.
Richard wouldn’t share his feelings anymore. He became like a robot and there is no fun working with a robot.
I understood that I have failed as a leader. The purpose and motivation behind my actions were the issues. I atoned for preaching ignition but practicing demotivation.
I decided to put more effort into increasing his morale, repairing broken trust, nurturing collaboration, while effectively building a strong vision for our office.
I became an affiliative leader to him.
We made an arrangement for his dog to be in the office for a few days every month.
We purchased premium spellchecking software to make Richard’s reports shiny.
Colors returned to our working relationship and Richard became a happy strong performer. This is how I learned the right leadership style from my teammate Richard and his dog, by harvesting at both ends (too altruistic, too authoritative).
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts — Winston Churchill
We all come here with our layer of dirt, looking for polishing. When leading, we can choose the right attitude, not only pin-point the finger but rather always find the gold inside people.
Leading people offered me a pallet of colors. I learned to pick two or more and mix them to get a new color.
Your leadership style is like the most beautiful painting ever, it should neither be too dark nor too pale — it should have bright, vivid colors. A different one each time you lead, depending on people and situations.
Think about what colors your painting needs to add or reduce.