As a leader, you’ve probably seen a plethora of leadership models being talked about in management literature. You’ve developed your own leadership style, maybe subconsciously, or have had the opportunity to undergo leadership development programs at a highly prestigious institute. Either way, you have your own unique style of leading your team.
Leadership models and styles are a way to make sense of these wide variety of approaches by clubbing them into separate groups of similar characteristics. By doing this, it becomes easier to study the impact of such approaches and also understand the motivation drivers underlying them. From this perspective it becomes an interesting tool to understand our own leadership styles and assess whether we are having the impact we desire or just the opposite.
Leadership approaches range from Lewin’s Leadership Styles framework of the 1930s to the more recent ideas about transformational leadership. There are also many general styles, including servant and transactional leadership. Become aware of such frameworks and styles can help you to refine your approach and to be a more deliberate and effective leader.
So let’s delve deeper into some of the key leadership styles to understand how they affect your team’s performance.
This is a framework developed by psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930s, and it became the foundation of many of the approaches that followed afterwards. He argued that there are three major styles of leadership:
Autocratic leaders make decisions on their own without consulting or taking inputs from their team, even when they might be able to come up with good ideas. An autocratic leader believes that they are the most qualified to take decisions and do not value the ideas that come from others. Working with a leader like this can make even the most creative and enthusiastic team member, hesitant about sharing their ideas. This style can be quite demoralizing for the team, and it can lead to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover.
Democratic leaders include team members in the decision-making process by seeking out their ideas but eventually they make the final decisions themselves. This approach of a democratic leader encourages creativity, and people are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. As a result, team members tend to have higher job satisfaction and higher productivity.
Laissez-faire leaders give their team members a lot of freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines. They tend to provide support in terms of advice or resources if required, but otherwise they let the team function on its own. This autonomy that team members sense under such a leader can lead to high job satisfaction, but only if the team members have the required skills and resources to accomplish the task. If the team lacks motivation or has to deliver under tight deadlines, this approach could lead to a lot of frustration within the team. At it’s extreme, it would even appear that the leader is not interested in the team or the task.
This framework clearly indicates that a less autocratic approach would get better results. However, in times of crisis or when decisions need to be taken quickly, the autocratic approach may appear to be the best route.
The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid which emerged in 1964 uses a simple two-by-two grid to describe five leadership styles on the basis of the leader’s concern for people and concern for tasks.
Authoritarian Leader (high task, low relationship): Leaders who have very high focus on tasks and not so much on their people tend to be hard on their teams. There is little or no allowance for cooperation or collaboration. Such leaders are very strong on schedules; they expect people to do what they are told without question or debate and when something goes wrong, they tend to focus on who is to blame rather than concentrate on exactly what is wrong and how to prevent it. They tend to be intolerant of what they see as dissent, which might just be someone's creativity, so it is difficult for their subordinates to contribute or develop.
Country Club Leader (low task, high relationship): A leader who focuses on relationship with his team rather than tasks uses predominantly reward power to maintain discipline and to encourage the team to accomplish its goals. This makes them almost incapable of being directive and giving difficult feedback to their team, or exercising their legitimate power in any manner. At the core, they fear that using such powers could jeopardize their relationships with their team members.
Impoverished Leader (low task, low relationship): This type of leader uses a "delegate and disappear" management style. Since they are not committed to either task accomplishment or maintenance of relationships, they essentially allow their team to do whatever it wishes and prefer to detach themselves from the team process. This could lead to the team suffering from a series of power struggles.
Team Leader (high task, high relationship): A leader who has a high focus on relationships and tasks leads by positive example and is able to foster a team environment in which all team members can reach higher potential, both as team members and as people. Such leaders encourage the team to reach team goals as effectively as possible, while also working tirelessly to strengthen the bonds among the various members. They normally form and lead some of the most productive teams.
As you can conclude from the above description, the ideal leader would be a team leader who not only has a high focus on the tasks and outcomes but also builds the capabilities of and relationship with their team members.
The leadership frameworks discussed so far are all useful in different situations, however, "transformational leadership " is often considered to be the most effective style to use in business. This leadership model was first published in 1978, and was then further developed in 1985.
Transformational leaders have integrity and high emotional intelligence. They motivate people with a shared vision of the future, and they communicate well. They're also typically self-aware, authentic, empathetic, and humble.
Transformational leaders inspire their team members because they expect the best from everyone, and they hold themselves accountable for their actions. They set clear goals, and they have good conflict-resolution skills. This leads to high levels of productivity and engagement.
So, what is your predominant style of leadership?
These are some questions for you to ponder.
To summarize, leadership is not a "one size fits all" thing. Often, as a leader you need to adapt or flex your style to fit the situation. A good understanding of what impact each of these styles have on your team members and their performance is a way to be more intentional in your approach and flexible as required by the situation.
To understand more about your leadership style, you could explore some leadership assessments along with a coaching session. Assessments around emotional intelligence can provide you with a lot of insights about your self-awareness and relationship management. If you want to explore this further, feel free to schedule a consultation with me.
As a business leader in the 21st century, you face persistent changes in the business environments in which you operate. The diversity, intensity, and rapidity of these changes create volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, which challenge you on ways to lead effectively as what methods worked in the past seem inadequate to deal with this environment. VUCA refers to this operating environment that is constantly changing in conflicting, dramatic, and relentless ways to produce leadership and organizational challenges.
Each letter of the acronym VUCA represents a type of change that we need to identify to cope fully with the environmental unpredictability.
Our world is volatile — things change, change quickly, and for reasons beyond our control and cause instability.
It is uncertain — we lack full and confirmed information and hence gaining conviction about future outcomes becomes ever more challenging.
It is complex — we can never know the interaction of the multiple variables we must consider, let alone how to integrate them effectively.
It is ambiguous — the same data can yield multiple and often competing interpretations and lacks precedence making it difficult to move ahead.
Globalization and technology have and continue to fuel the VUCA dynamics through increased innovation, interconnectivity, and digital revolutions, which, in turn, give rise to new and nimble competitors, who operate globally to transform customer expectations radically and thus produce organizational turmoil. The current turbulence has baffled leaders due to its novelty and because the proven approaches of the past have been inadequate in the VUCA-world.
The VUCA world obstructs a leader’s ability to understand, to decide, to communicate, and ultimately to act decisively — which is actually a precondition for effective action in business.
It’s natural for leaders to react differently to this environment. Some have become so distracted by the volatility and constant change that they have stopped planning and are just trying to react to events.
Others have become so intimidated by the uncertainty and ambiguity that they don’t act for the fear of making a mistake. Still, others try to do everything they possibly can in this complex environment and don’t end up focusing their efforts in any one direction.
Only a few leaders have been able to fight through all the complexity and uncertainty and chart a way forward for their organizations. They have managed to impose their will on such complex environments and succeeded where others haven’t been able to do so.
In fact, a study by DDI in 2015 had shown that only 18% of leaders were capable of leading in a VUCA world! I haven’t come across any update on this study in recent times but I believe that the percentage may have moved only marginally. If you ask me why I don’t think leadership development in the last few years has really focused on developing the specific competencies to deal with this VUCA world.
So, what are the leadership traits or competencies that would prepare them to be successful in a VUCA world? What would help them to thrive where others flounder?
Based on my inter-disciplinary work in leadership development, social and cognitive psychology, coaching, and my own experience as a leader and a coach, I have come up with a model for leadership development that can prepare leaders to handle this VUCA world in a more deliberate, self-assured, and successful manner. I call it the CARES Model of Leadership.
CARES is an acronym for
C – Credible
A – Adaptive
R – Resolute
E – Emotionally Intelligent
S – Sense-making
Let’s look at each of these aspects as to why it is important for a leader in the VUCA world.
Why does a leader need to be credible to be effective in the VUCA world, or actually under any circumstance? As a leader, credibility lets your employees see you as a dependable source of reliable information and for fair, effective decision-making. This information could be on a day-to-day basis or on those occasions when it's most critical. If you have credibility with your team, you will earn their mutual trust and respect. This would enable you to align them with the goals of the organization. Without credibility, there cannot be a culture of trust and shared goals. So the creditability of the leader is of prime importance, especially in a VUCA world where you need the team to trust you to lead them in the direction that you want them to go.
To welcome change is to be adaptive. Adaptive describes people who are flexible — they don't lose their cool when plans change quickly and they are always willing to learn new ways to do things. Being adaptive helps you cope with the volatility and uncertainty and sail along in today's ever-changing world. Clearly being adaptive, flexible, agile, and adaptable is paramount in a VUCA world.
Developing and articulating a clear view of the future in today’s increasingly complex environments demands that leaders make judgments about the future — something that entails risk and could be wrong, and there could be significant consequences. Successful leaders are those who can overcome those doubts and act to prepare the organization for success in the future.
I am calling this trait Resolute because it refers to someone who is purposeful, determined, and unwavering. A resolute person has the courage to act with conviction in the face of uncertainty and risk. Be able to manage their emotions and be decisive even with limited information.
As we discussed earlier, dealing with uncertainty, volatility and ambiguity can be emotionally challenging for any leader. Unless you are able to manage your emotions on this roller-coaster, you might end up burning out really fast. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of their own emotions and intuitively aware of the emotions of others. This self-awareness also helps them to manage their emotions when dealing with stressful situations. Their social intelligence enables them to lead with empathy and factor in emotions when presenting information, or otherwise engaging with their people. Leaders set the tone of their organization. If you lack emotional intelligence, it could have more far-reaching consequences, resulting in lower employee engagement and a higher turnover rate.
The primary function of any leader is to point the way ahead. This requires vision — the ability to see something significant about the future that isn’t readily apparent to others. Today’s VUCA environments are tough on leaders. The more volatile and the more ambiguous the environment, the harder it is for leaders themselves to come to grips with the situation, let alone articulate a clear way ahead.
Sense-making is the action or process of making sense of or giving meaning to something, especially new developments and experiences. Sense-making is how we make sense of the world so we can act in it. A person with highly developed sense-making can tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. They have the ability to be able to know enough, even from limited information, to be able to make a measured and appropriate decision. The ability to spot existing or emerging patterns is one of the most if not the most critical skill in decision-making. Hence, it is self-evident that sense-making is a key competency for leaders to succeed in a VUCA world.
As a business leader in the 21st century, you face persistent changes in the business environments in which you operate. VUCA refers to this operating environment that is constantly changing in conflicting, dramatic, and relentless ways to produce leadership and organizational challenges. The VUCA world obstructs a leader’s ability to understand, to decide, to communicate, and ultimately to act decisively — which is actually a precondition for effective action in business. The CARES model for leadership development can prepare leaders to handle this VUCA world in a more deliberate, self-assured, and successful manner.
- Sonali Sinha
I’m a very driven entrepreneur. Always raring to go and full of ideas that have to be actioned. Constantly learning and trying out new things. But even I have days when I just don’t seem to have the energy to get stuff done. I’m sure you’ve also experienced such days. Whether it's a lack of inspiration, a feeling of burnout, or feeling paralyzed when facing too many options, sometimes it's hard to be anywhere near as productive as you normally are.
If this happens to you once in a while, it’s nothing to worry about. Maybe you just need a break or change of scene. But if this inertia goes on for days, weeks, and months at a stretch and business starts dwindling and there is nothing in the pipeline, it can be alarming!
Sometimes a hard knock, like losing a big client or not winning an important deal or a change in the business environment that puts us in a disadvantageous position can really impact our confidence and self-esteem – and we may not even be aware of it. It could linger at the back of our minds and slowly make us disengage from the work that we love doing. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being judged negatively, all these can paralyze us.
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey because we don’t feel comfortable talking about such situations with anyone – whether it’s our team or even our family members. We don’t want to spook our employees and we don’t want our families to worry about us. Somewhere deep down we also feel that if we talk about our inertia and lack of motivation, we will be judged negatively.
Inertia can show up in many ways. Sometimes you want to or must take some action steps, but you don’t take it? Sometimes you want to start a new business vertical or launch a new product, but something pulls you back to the current status quo situation. Sometimes you need to take an important decision, but you don’t decide? Sometimes you make your plan, and never implement it, in reality. Sometimes you need to reach out to an important customer but you keep avoiding it. All these are signs of entrepreneurial inertia.
So, what can you do when you find yourself stuck in entrepreneurial inertia?
Here are 5 simple actions you can take to bounce back from inertia and save your business.
When things are not going as you would want them to go and you find yourself lacking the motivation to forge ahead, the most important thing is to re-focus your attention on your long-term goal. Ask yourself these three questions:
If you take time to reflect on these three questions, it will help you align your thoughts and actions with your goals and get you back on the track of getting things done. Seeing your ambitions in black and white will refocus your mind effectively.
Often, the best way to give yourself a kickstart is to simply take action. It almost doesn't matter what this action is - it could be a piece of administrative work, some light research for a new project or even something completely unrelated to your business.
Once you start moving, your energy will usually begin to flow back and you can switch to something a little more intensive. However, don't begin anything that could turn toward displacement activity - avoid social media at all costs, for example, unless it is a necessary part of your work schedule.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the size of your to-do list, then it can be helpful to bring it back down to size by scrapping the less important and urgent items. Take a close look at which jobs really need to be done first. This will help give you a little more clarity and generate a burst of motivation.
There are many tools that can help you prioritize and stay focused. Try and keep your list of activities to just 2-3 important activities in a day and make them happen. Once you start seeing that you are able to tackle the 2-3 important tasks for the day, you will feel energized and motivated. You can even reward yourself to keep the motivation going.
When you know you've got things to do but you're not in the right frame of mind, it's easy to become frustrated and angry with yourself. This is unlikely to improve matters. If you’re not the type who can step back and reflect on your own, try talking to a coach or mentor.
A coach will ask you questions that will help you reflect and come up with answers that a really very personal to you. The coach will also help you with planning out your action steps and will help you with holding yourself accountable.
If you speak to a mentor, they may be able to share their own experience of snapping out of inaction and low energy situations. Some of those ideas might resonate with you.
Finally, sometimes it's really better to just step away for a while rather than allow yourself to become frustrated with your lack of motivation and results. Take some time off to recharge. Physical activity can be really rejuvenating – walking, running, playing a sport, etc can help revive your energy levels and make you feel better about yourself. Meditation, digital detox, short staycations, are some other options to explore.
Hope these ideas help you snap out of inertia if you’re experiencing one. While it is not humanly possible to be driven and energetic all the time, but as an entrepreneur, you can't afford to let your low-productivity days come around too often or stay too long . By using one or more of these tips, you can get back in the groove and start pushing your business forward once again.
Want to discuss a challenge you're facing with managing your business? Click on the Request Consultation button above or email email@example.com
Why do you need to stay relevant? What makes it important for business leaders to stay relevant, especially in times of crisis?
Well, the current COVID-19 situation is very telling about the times that we live in. While many businesses have been moving towards becoming more active online and using technology-backed tools to be more agile, this COVID-19 situation has really pushed companies to literally switch how they work within weeks, even days. Businesses that were not able and ready to make this switch have suffered tremendously during this period.
But at the same time, some businesses have made the transition quite smoothly and have been able to keep the business running remotely with employees working from home. This has been possible not only because of their use of technology-backed tools but also because of their ability to rejig their operating model quickly. More importantly, this has been possible because of the leaders at the helm.
In this post, I will share four specific steps for you to take to innovate your way out of this crisis. So, read on!
COVID-19 is a test case for leadership. While the leader’s primary responsibility is to keep the team safe, cohesive, and productive, what should the leader be focused on in the midst of a global disruption like this? I believe that every crisis is an opportunity for innovation. Crises present us with unique conditions that allow innovators to think and move more freely to create rapid, impactful change.
We are seeing this already playing out. Around the world, beermakers and distilleries have shifted production to hand sanitizers. In Italy, a start-up engineering company began quickly using 3D printers to create the valves used in ventilators. Fashion businesses are producing protective gear, gowns, and other supplies for hospitals.
When we look back to this health crisis, I am sure we’ll see the impact it had on innovation in many sectors – be it medical devices, healthcare processes, manufacturing and supply chain innovations, collaboration techniques, education, and so on. Service businesses in particular are likely to see a lot of innovation in how services are created, packaged, and sold.
If you believe the world will go back to being what it was before the pandemic, I’m afraid you are sadly mistaken. Once customers, businesses, and employees are exposed to a certain way of operating, it will be difficult for them to go back and work as if nothing changed. Actions taken during the crisis will shape how companies perform in the long run. Some companies may even continue to pursue opportunities first identified during the crisis.
A very important point to remember is that reputations are built — and lost — during times of crisis. Companies that are demonstrating good citizenship by helping with shortages, or by making major donations, are probably hoping that consumers will remember their actions when the economy returns to normal.
Companies that treat their employees or customers badly during a crisis will face major challenges rebuilding when the storm has passed. Similarly, if leaders in business segments fail to lead the way in terms of innovation and customer service, it is inevitable that other competitors will emerge with better products or platforms.
Eventually, how a business responds to such vast and dislocating change depends on how the leader views the situation – as an opportunity or as a disaster.
So how have you and your company tried to innovate and adapt during this time of crisis? How are you trying to stay relevant in the market? In the next segment, I’m going to talk about some specific approaches that you can adopt to manage this crisis and opportunity for innovation.
So, we were talking about how important it is for leaders and businesses to reinvent and innovate during a crisis. But remember, rapid change is an ongoing process – not just linked to a crisis. Change emanates from changing customer expectation, entry of new players in the market, the introduction of new-age technology, socio-economic factors, new laws, and also changes in executive management or structural transformation of organizations. A crisis only accelerates the pace of change. So these approaches that I am going to share now are relevant, whether you are facing a crisis or not.
One of the key leadership challenges in day-to-day organizational life is inspiring engagement and generating momentum towards the goals of the organization. This becomes even more important in times of crisis as there is a big jump in the nervous energy present in the workforce. Leaders who can harness this energy and focus it on a clear purpose in resolving the crisis will be able to lead the team to success. They will be able to tap into a wave of new ideas, as individuals feel compelled to share insights, they normally would keep to themselves. They will be able to lead their team from fear to a clear shared goal. After all, courage is defined as the ability to overcome fear for a good purpose. In this way, a crisis has the potential to create the organizational courage to take action in support of a purpose that would be unthinkable in times of calm. Also, know that this constant effort to get the team aligned around a purpose will pay dividends even in normal times.
When organizations want to find opportunities to innovate, they usually bring in an external consultant to get an outside perspective and fresh ideas. A crisis can actually play that role very well because it brings to the fore the vulnerabilities and problem areas in the organization which may have been ignored earlier in the drive to keep growing the way things are. When a crisis hits, we are compelled to confront the truth about whether our systems work or not. They make us question our disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans. Being able to zoom out and see things for what they are can suddenly throw up opportunities for operating more efficiently or serve our customers better. A crisis is a good opportunity for you as the leader to give a hard look at why you do what you do and whether you do it in the best possible way.
Organizations, over time, tend to fall into a familiar and predictable way of operating. The very rules that help the organization become more efficient can keep it from evolving and responding rapidly to opportunities thrown up by change. A crisis changes all that. Companies are forced to do away with bureaucratic overheads of review and approval and allow for fresh thinking to be applied quickly to address the challenge. So, how are you responding to this crisis? Are you still trying to stick to the old and familiar ways of taking decisions? If yes, then, believe me, the organization is in for some rough times. What you need right now is for communication to move upwards and downwards and sideways without any barriers of hierarchy because through these communication channels, you get valuable inputs for your strategic decision-making.
A crisis brings with it a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. This can lead to a paralysis of action as leaders and team members grapple with their worries about losing out on things that have been important to them thus far. But dealing with a crisis demands movement and change – the pace of ideation, decision making, and implementation all increase dramatically. If a leader gets trapped in focusing on how to protect what they have rather than identifying what opportunities the crisis is throwing up, they will remain stuck in the present – or an analysis paralysis situation. On the other hand, if leaders choose to focus on quickly creating experiments, seeing what happens, and experimenting some more, they will encourage the freedom to test different thinking, to fail fast, to learn, and to move forward – in short, to innovate.
So there you have it – four approaches to help you innovate and stay relevant despite a crisis. These are
#1 Align around a Purpose
#2 See Systems from Outside In
#3 Shake Up the Organization
#4 Create a Bias for Action
Times of crisis present incredible opportunities for learning and growth. It is a time for experimenting with new technologies and approaches to operating your business. We don’t know how long this coronavirus crisis will continue for or how it will impact our economies and businesses but if we use it wisely as an opportunity for innovating, for learning and growing, we will come out on the other side stronger and more agile.
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