I'm Sorry

I’m Sorry

Why is it so hard for management or leaders to apologize and own their mistakes? Why is it so hard for people, in general, to apologize and own their mistakes? In a recent article published by Psychology Today, the author contends that “I’m sorry” often leads to shame; admitting doing something bad gets confused with being bad, and so, an apology becomes a threat to that person’s sense of worth and identity. Leaders are naturally sensitive to protecting their reputation and character. Whether they like it or not, they are put on a pedestal. There is pressure to be perfect – to be strong, courageous, wise, self-controlled, honest, and full of integrity. Always. But we all know, nobody is perfect.

Doug Guthrie notes:

“We are frequently taught that leaders, especially aspiring leaders, should hide weakness and mistakes.  This view is flawed.  It is not only good to admit you are wrong when you are; but also it can be a powerful tool for leaders – actually increasing legitimacy and, when practiced regularly, can help to build a culture that actually increases solidarity, innovation, openness to change and many other positive features of organizational life.”

An apology is powerful as long as it is real and sincere. An insincere apology – one that focuses on making yourself feel better or patching up your own image – can do more harm than good. So what constitutes and effective apology?

  1. A clear statement.

“I am sorry.”

  1. An expression of regret.

“I regret having made that racist comment during the board meeting.”

  1. An acknowledgement that either boundaries or social/corporate norms were violated or expectations were not met.

“I know a statement like that is completely unacceptable. I had a lapse in judgment and failed to think through my comment before expressing it.”

  1. A statement validating the other person’s feelings as a result of the mistake.

“I understand that you felt demeaned and singled out. And you have every right to feel angry and hurt.”

  1. A request for forgiveness.

“I hope you will accept my apology. It might take a while, but I want to let you know how sorry I am.”

Apologizing is a form of opening up to someone. It requires vulnerability, and ultimately, courage. But being vulnerable can be therapeutic and empowering, leading to a deeper bond of trust with someone else. In any healthy relationship, trust is key, and a leader needs his followers’ trust in order to be effective.

To err is human. And to acknowledge our humanness is to exercise our humanity.

Adaptable Leadership

Adaptable Leadership

When thinking about history’s greatest leaders, a few characteristics often come to mind: strength, courage, confidence, and ability to inspire.  You’d be hard pressed to find an effective leader that didn’t possess these qualities.  However, an often overlooked trait is adaptability.

We’ve all heard the saying: “The only thing that is constant is change.”  While it’s human nature to resist change with everything we have, dealing with it is inevitable.  As a leader, how you react to change will either make or break you.

SNL recently aired its 40th episode with Lorne Michaels at the helm.  Michaels is one of the most adaptable leaders of our generation.  Think about how different society is today compared to 40 years ago.  How many times has he completely rebuilt his cast after a large-scale turnover? Somehow, through all the changes, Michaels found a way to adapt, restructure, and reinvent the show, keeping it relevant to his viewers.

Adaptability is not instantaneous; telling yourself to be adaptable does not automatically make you a Lorne Michaels.  Like with any other skill, adaptability takes practice.  Push your boundaries and leave your comfort zone.  Make it a goal to succeed in an unknown environment. If you’re not keen on outdoor activities, join a hiking group.  Inserting yourself into an uncomfortable and challenging environment guarantees unforeseen obstacles. Unforeseen obstacles force you to think on your feet and strategize creative ways to reach the finish line.

As a leader, you will hit bumps in the road. When that happens, take a step back and watch a few reruns of SNL.  If you master the art adaptation, you will lead your team to the finish line, ahead of everyone else.


Sleep? Not for These 10 Great Leaders of History

Do a Google search for great leadership qualities and you’ll find article after article on the habits of great leaders. That is, habits performed during waking hours. But what are the habits of great leaders and innovators outside of that time? Specifically, when and how long do they sleep? In our age of increased demand on productivity, the debate over the necessity and importance of sleep is a critical one.

Here are the sleeping habits of 10 notable individuals:

Nikola Tesla – 2 Hours

Tesla’s odd sleeping pattern was the cause of a mental breakdown at age 25. Despite this, he managed to keep working for another 38 years.

Leonardo Da Vinci – 2 Hours

Da Vinci followed the Uberman Sleep Cycle which consists of taking a 20 minute nap every four hours.

Thomas Edison – 3 Hours

Edison regarded sleep as a waste of time and tried to minimize it as much as possible. Like Da Vinci, he also used a polyphasic sleep cycle similar to the Uberman cycle.

Voltaire – 4 Hours

Voltaire would regularly sleep four hours per night. He was a great lover of coffee and was known to drink up to 40 cups a day.

Margaret Thatcher – 4 Hours

Thatcher became known for only sleeping four hours each night. The Civil Service got so used to her irregular sleep schedule that it caused problems for her successor, John Major.

Wolfgang Mozart – 5 Hours

Mozart would often compose his masterpieces until 1 am and then sleep for five hours before waking and continuing his work at 6 am.

Benjamin Franklin – 6 Hours

Franklin was an advocate of getting up early. His advice, still quoted to this day: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Richard Branson – 6 Hours

Like Benjamin Franklin, Branson sleeps no more than six hours and is up by 5:45 am each morning. He spends the morning with his family and exercising.

Barack Obama – 6 Hours

The Current U.S. President gets to bed around 1 am and is up by 7 am. Sometimes, he gets up in the middle of the night for emergencies. President Obama does not have an alarm clock. Instead, a White House secretary wakes him each morning.

Winston Churchill – 7 Hours

Last, but definitely not least, Churchill believed naps were very important. He attributed napping to his success against Nazi Germany in The Battle of Britain. He even kept a bed in the House of Parliament.

Despite the bizarre habits of some of the people on this list, doctors recommend 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. It’s important that we get enough sleep to keep our minds running at full capacity during the day.

Leadership from Within

Leadership From Within

Just as a train requires tracks to successfully reach its destination, every organization requires a strong vision from its leaders to successfully reach the company’s goals.  If your leadership team has developed an exciting vision and has laid out a clear path for the organization to follow, you are off to great start.  However, even the most well thought-out and detailed plans will inevitably face unforeseen obstacles.

When facing these obstacles, members of the organization will need guidance.  Due to the significant demands on many leaders, guidance is not always available on a whim. What happens when no one is around to offer direction in the moment?  The answer is still leadership, but it needs to come from within the team.

It is important that team members understand the direction that the organization wants to take, and the types of decisions and actions that are necessary to move in that direction.  Along with this understanding, team members need the character to back it up.  Knowledge and awareness, combined with the right personality, makes for a team member capable of leadership in a time of need.

The good thing about leadership coming from within the team is that it does not need to come from the same one or two appointed “leaders”.  It can come from anyone, at any time.  Depending on the situation, different people may feel more comfortable stepping up to take control.

In order to successfully leverage team members’ abilities to take charge in tough situations, it is imperative for leaders to know and understand the people on their team.  It is important to understand exactly who is stepping up in certain situations.  This can help leaders form a plan of action for similar occurrences in the future.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge the accomplishments of these internal leaders.  It feels good to know that your boss sees you have gone the extra mile and appreciates your efforts.  If team members are recognized for their leadership abilities, they are more likely to take charge in the future.  It is empowering to be a part of a flexible team, and it is reassuring to know that support and leadership goes deeper than one person’s title.


Re-Define LEadership

Everyday Leadership: Why We Need to Re-Define Leadership

Think about this for a moment: when was the last time you actually gave credit to a person for changing your life in some way? If you are scratching your head right now because you can’t remember, you are not alone. According to leadership expert Drew Dudley, most of us are guilty of failing to vocalize the impact others have had on our lives. Why?

During his 2010 speech at TEDxToronto “Everyday Leadership & Lollipop Moments”, Dudley asserts that as a society, we are remarkably focused on the big, splashy moments that often occur sporadically. As a result, we have grown desensitized to the everyday achievements that define great leaders. Naturally, when we hear about the Steve Jobses and Richard Bransons of the world and the remarkable things they are doing, we revere these people as “true” leaders, ignoring our own meaningful professional and personal contributions, even if those contributions are on a much smaller scale.  In doing so, we have begun to lose sight of what true leadership really means.

The little things matter. The stirring motivational speech you give to your team every day, the new client you were able to land for your company – these are what Dudley refers to as “lollipop moments”. Every email, every nuance, and every interaction presents an opportunity for a lollipop moment. If you weren’t fortunate enough to have been bestowed with the last name Branson or Jobs, do not be deterred; Dudley is passionate about great leadership and posits that we are all capable of becoming great leaders.  It is his belief that leadership is not a trait reserved for extraordinary people, but instead, a characteristic shared by everyone. We just need to learn to tap into it.

According to Dudley, we can start by re-defining leadership. Instead of seeing leadership as something beyond the reach of the “average majority”, we can start by viewing ourselves as leaders already. It’s not an abstract concept; the ability to be a great leader resides in all of us. In his “Everyday Leadership & Lollipop Moments” speech in Toronto, Dudley challenged the audience to re-think leadership, and called upon them to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving someone’s life. That’s pretty powerful.

So, in the spirit of Drew Dudley, I challenge you to change the way you think about leadership, right at this moment. You are capable of extraordinary things, every day, and you don’t need to be a famous CEO to prove it. Now get out there and claim your lollipop moment!


Follow the Leader

Do you remember playing Follow the Leader as a child?  One kid stands in front doing goodness knows what, while everyone is behind mimicking his/her actions.  What made you a good “follower” was being able to copy exactly what the leader was doing, regardless of the ridiculous nature.  Isn’t it funny how far from reality this game truly is?  You have to wonder what impact this game has played on the perception of leadership in the minds of children.

Let’s first take a look at the child in the “leader” role.  Does he/she have his/her follower’s best interest in mind?  Heck no!  All they want to do is run around and make everyone behind them look like idiots.  Does he/she have proven leadership skills?  Absolutely not!  The leader is most likely five years old, and won a game of rock-paper-scissors in order to receive this coveted title.  Let’s not steer away from the fact that this is a harmless children’s game, but maybe the creator should have named it differently!

Let’s now take a look at the child in the “follower” role.  Is he/she working alongside the other team members towards a common goal?  Nope!  In fact, the follower is essentially trying to beat the other members in the group.  Is the follower taking any sort of precautions towards the leader’s intentions?  Umm, probably not.  It really doesn’t matter what type of crazy, acrobatic moves the leader is attempting to make, everyone will be trying their best to do them as well.

I hope that those who are reading this do not think I am completely serious.  My statements are pretty accurate, but you won’t see me picketing playgrounds around town.  Writing this, it was funny envisioning myself as a child engaging in an intense game of Follow the Leader.  I always won, of course, but that’s beside the point.  It was fun, exciting, and taught me no beneficial life-long lessons.  As adults in a leadership position, it might actually be helpful to play a bit of Follow the Leader.  If you purposely perform a ridiculous action, and your team follows without question, it’s time for a team meeting!

The Goldilocks Conundrum

The Goldilocks Conundrum

Everyone who holds a leadership position in their lifetime, no matter how big or small, will inevitably face the Goldilocks Conundrum when it comes to managing the ebb and flow of stresses on their team.  At this point you may be asking yourself, “How does the story of a small child rummaging through the home of three bears, eating their food, and sleeping in their beds compare to leading a team of people?”  Throughout her journey, Goldilocks was confronted with the task of finding a balance between two extremes – too hot or too cold, too hard or too soft, too big or too small.  At some point or another, anyone holding a leadership role will have to find a balance between pushing their team too hard and not pushing their team hard enough.  The question is, how does a leader find that balance?

For many leaders facing this challenge, the line between pushing too hard or not hard enough is a fine one, and can be hard to define at times.  If pushed too hard a team can become unfocused, insubordinate, and members may even start to leave.  If not pushed hard enough a leader can lose the ability to keep the team under control.  In either case, the team will not be able to reach their full potential.

Like many aspects of leadership, there is no universal solution.  Leaders need to understand the personality types of their team in order to find the right balance.  Some people find getting yelled at to be a motivational factor, while others would be put off by these actions, leaving very little chance for success.  It is important to find out what motivates your team members, and to act accordingly.  Gathering feedback, and making adjustments, can help to ensure that your actions are working to effectively motivate the team.

Beyond understanding your team members, and pushing them in a way that is effective, it is essential that expectations stay consistent and are clearly communicated.  It is extremely frustrating for a team member to find out the expectations were never properly communicated after they have already worked hard to complete a task.  It is especially important for new leaders to be consistent in communicating expectations because they are still working to earn the trust of their team.  If a team feels that they cannot trust the expectations provided by the leader, they will likely guess as to what the expectations are.  This can lead to a disorganized and disconnected team, and we all know that a team must work in unison in order to be successful.

It is important to remember that balance does not mean you have to push your team with the same amount of pressure all of the time.  There are going to be times where the demands on your team are higher than normal, and you will have to push your team harder.  This is okay, but once the demands have settled back down don’t forget to reward your team with something special.  Find an appropriate reward by understanding the members of your team, and knowing what will make them feel appreciated.

Effective Communication

Effective Leadership: Secrets of Communication

Earlier in this series on leadership I wrote about the traits that make up a good leader.  One of the most important traits on the list was to be an effective communicator.  It is impossible to be a great leader without being able to effectively communicate with those around you.  Leadership needs to provide direction for the team; miscommunication can cause team members to go in their own directions.  This may ultimately pull the group apart and make it difficult, if not impossible, for the group to reach its end goal.

If you look back in history, great leaders were also great communicators.  In researching why these leaders were such great communicators I found an article that perfectly sums it up.  “10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders”, by Mike Myatt, gave me great insight into what made their communication so effective, and I would like to share with you some of his key points.  He starts with some obvious points such as developing trust, being personal, and being specific, but let’s take a look at some of his points that are not as obvious

  1. Shut up and listen – We all know that as a leader it is important to be able to effectively get your point across when you are speaking, but what is less acknowledged is being able to listen.  To understand where miscommunications are occurring, or even to know if your message is being accepted or rejected, it is essential to listen to the team.  If you listen to what your team is thinking you will be able to address the miscommunications, or even adapt your thinking to better suit the team/situation.
  2. Reading between the lines – With the power that leadership holds, it is not a given that team members will speak their minds freely.  Because of this, it is important for leaders to be able to take the true meaning from the sugarcoated version of what a team member might say.  Unless leadership knows the true meaning, they will not be able to truly address an issue that might be passively brought to their attention.
  3. Speak to groups as individuals – It is not always going to be possible for leadership to have discussions with each individual on the team.  In group settings it is important for great leaders to be able to tailor their message to reach as many individuals as they can.  Everyone comprehends information differently, and great leaders need their message to be understood by everyone.  It is important that explanations be presented in a way that can be universally understood even if the differences are subtle.  It may even be necessary to communicate with certain individuals post meeting to ensure that the message was received correctly.
  4. Be prepared to change the message if necessary – This was a bonus “secret” that Mr. Myatt provided, and in my opinion it may be the most important.  This is not to say that great leaders change their message every time a team member doesn’t completely agree.  If that were the case, then the message would change so often that it would become convoluted and meaningless.  What this does mean is that if the message is broadly met with enough opposition that it does not work for the team/situation it may be necessary to make some changes.  We all know that being a leader comes with some degree of ego, but a great leader is able to put ego aside if it means allowing the team to succeed.

I encourage those of you that have read this post to check out Mike Myatt’s article in more detail.  He does an amazing job detailing the communication secret of great leaders of the past.  I also encourage you to check out more articles on our blog.  We are adding new posts daily, and your feedback is more than welcomed.  Cheers!


Sutherland 101: My Story to Success at Sutherland Global

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” (Dwight D Eisenhower)  Ever since I discovered this quote it has always been one of the first things that comes to mind when I think about leadership.  I am reminded that one’s ability to instill trust and confidence in others really defines their success rate as a leader.  A quality leader will have genuine support from those around them.

I would define leadership as the ability to find value in a person, determine how that value can benefit the group, and make the connection of how the progress of the group can benefit that team member. To sum it up, leadership is the ability to connect the needs of a team member to the needs of the group so that one benefits the other. When this is accomplished, a major part of the leader’s role is complete, and with continued direction and support the group will achieve the rest.

I have been in a leadership role at Sutherland Global Services before, and I believe my greatest strength was my ability to connect with my team and uncover what was important to them.  I became successful in ensuring the productivity of my group by coaching them to be able to relate the work they do to their goals in life.  I found areas where I know I needed improvement as well.  Balancing coaching sessions, monitoring, escalations, system issues, etc. often quickly changed the “to-do list” I had planned for the day.  Sometimes I found that I prioritized the wrong items which caused my day to be less productive than it could have been.  Time management is certainly an area I’d like to improve.  I have always learned best by making my own mistakes, and watching how others are able to succeed.

When I returned to Sutherland I was unsure that I would be successful in a sales role, and for the first couple months I definitely struggled.  I tried everything from reading books on sales to watching how others on my team found success.  I have always had great soft skills, and the ability to let the customer know I would resolve their issue. I quickly learned that was not enough to be successful with the sales aspect of the program. By not giving up, and pushing through rejection, I realized what I was missing. I always had the skills to sell, but I had misunderstood what it took to close a sale. The answer was in front of me the whole time, the 5 step sales process! By applying the same leadership skills I had used with my previous team, connecting the needs between the customer and the product, I was able to successfully jump from a customer service to a sales representative. My time at Sutherland has taught me one solid thing about myself: If afforded an opportunity I will do my best every day regardless of the struggle.

This is my story.  If you would like to share your story with me and possibly have it showcased, feel free to leave a comment or you can email it to me at SGSCareers@sutherlandglobal.com.


Is it Leaders Teaching or Teachers Leading?

For many years it was believed that people could not be taught to lead, but that leadership was an inherent trait that a person was born with.  Over the years this mindset has evolved. We now know that some people are born with an inherent leadership quality, but there are aspects of leadership that can indeed be taught.

The question now is: if leadership can be taught, why are there so few effective leaders among the billions of humans that walk the Earth?  To quote The Leadership Skills Institute’s article, “I’ve gone to Barnes and Noble I don’t know how many times and bought the self-improvement and how-to books on leadership skills training courses.  I’ve read them cover to cover, always digging for the secret that makes one a leader. And they all say the same thing: it’s in the way you think.”

In other words, it’s a mindset.  Some people’s way of thinking does not correlate with the mindset suitable for being a highly effective leader.  Even more important than choosing the right method of teaching leadership is choosing the right student.  To successfully mold a strong leader you need a student who has “a track record of success [in their current role] and have already exhibited leadership traits” (4 Tips for Teaching Leadership Skills, Nicole Fallon).  A short list of traits to look for includes:

∞     Strong Listening Skills

∞     A Vision

∞     They work for everyone else

Good listening skills are self-explanatory, but the other two traits are not as clear.  By “vision” I mean that the potential leader must show signs of being able to clearly see the end goal, and understand how to get there by leveraging the people around them.  By working for everyone else I mean that a good leader will not get caught up with the idea of people working for them.  They need to have the belief that as the leader they are working for everyone on the team to help them progress towards the end goal.  It is impossible for a leader to do all of the work to get their team to the end goal.  Leaders will need to work through their team, and if the team sees their leader working for them, they will be more inclined to work to their full potential.  That is the ultimate goal for a leader isn’t it? There is no greater success for a leader than to have their team work to their full potential and meet or exceed the original goal.


8 Characteristics of Great Leadership

In the first leadership article in this series, I established my own definition of leadership as “a person or group that directs a group or organization towards a common goal.”  As simple as the definition sounds, it is no easy task to lead a group of people towards one common goal.  It is human nature to be somewhat selfish. Due to this, it can be extremely challenging to keep a group focused on the team’s goal rather than personal goals or agendas.  It takes a certain type of person to be able to gain the respect and support that is required for the team to be successful.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “So, what type of person does it take to be a successful leader?”  Like defining the meaning of the word “leadership”, there is no simple way to define the mold for a successful leader.  There is not a cookie cutter mold that you can use to identify someone as a successful leader just by looking at them or having a quick conversation with them.  Much like the leadership styles that we explored in the last part of this series, different personality traits are desirable in a leader in different situations.

In doing research on the qualities that make a good leader, I came across two great articles that I think are spot on in identifying traits that are important for any leader in any situation.  These articles are “Top 10 Qualities That Make a Great Leader” by Tanya Prive and “7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders” by Peter Economy.  After reading both articles I have picked out 8 traits that are consistent between both articles and that I think are extremely important.  Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Optimism – I believe this is essential.  Everyone is going to have obstacles to work through on their way to their end goal.  If leadership does not stay positive, the group will not stay positive. Without the belief that the group can overcome the obstacle, they are destined to fail.
  1. The Ability to Inspire – This relates back to optimism.  In order for a group to meet its full potential there needs to be the belief and attitude that they can succeed and perform at the highest level.  This requires inspiration.  Inspiration does not need to completely stem from leadership, but without leadership being a part of that inspiration there is going to be a disconnect between leadership and organization that can be devastating to the group’s success.
  1. Honesty/Integrity – This might be number one on my list.  Dishonesty from leadership will cause an atmosphere of competition rather than collaboration between leadership and the group.  This can be extremely detrimental to the production and success of the group and no team wants to fail.
  1. Communication – In my experience I have found that communication is a close second behind honesty in importance for successful leadership.  For a team to successfully reach their end goal everyone needs to be on the same page.  The only way for this to effectively occur is for leadership to clearly define roles within the group and to communicate clear and explicit expectations throughout the entire process from start to finish.
  1. Sense of Humor – It can be important to encourage your team to laugh at their mistakes and work to find a solution rather than sit around and sulk about the mistake that was made.   This does not mean that you have to crack jokes at any chance you get or act like a clown.  Every team is going to face obstacles and even failure on their way to their end goal.  Leadership needs to be able to take these hurdles in stride and keep morale high on the team.  Keep the atmosphere light and you will get more out of your employees.
  1. Commitment – Leadership needs to be committed to supporting the team and to setting a good example.  This sounds like an obvious trait you look for in a leader, but it is an important one.  It is impossible to gain the respect of your team if you ask them to follow a standard that you do not follow yourself.
  1. Confidence – Confidence is a must have in any leader.  If leadership does not believe in what the team is doing it is just about guaranteed that the team will not either.  Furthermore, leadership needs to remain confident when the team encounters obstacles on the way to the end goal.  If leadership’s confidence is shaken by the problem the team encounters, you can bet that the team will stop believing.
  1. Ability to Delegate – Leadership obviously needs to distribute work between team members because they just don’t have the time to do everything.  However, the ability to delegate requires more than just handing out work to do.  Leadership needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual on the team so that they can distribute work to team members that suits their skills to get the highest quality end results possible.

This is not the end-all, be-all of personality traits that make a good leader, but some characteristics that I believe to be extremely important in a successful leader.  I hope that this is a helpful start for all of you.  Until next time!


Leadership Styles

In the first part of this leadership series, I briefly answered the question, “What is leadership?”  We agreed that there is no single definition for leadership; it can mean something different to anyone you ask.

Just like the variation in describing leadership, there are many variations in leadership style.  Different situations call for different styles of leadership if success is to be the outcome.  Let us consider leadership like cooking a meal.  You can’t prepare every type of food the same way; it just won’t work. Some foods need to be boiled, some need to be grilled, some you don’t need to cook at all.  Leadership is the same way.  You can’t approach every situation in the same way or it could turn out the same as if you were trying to boil a steak.

In trying to learn more about different styles of leadership I came across a great article by Robin Benincasa, called “6 Leadership Styles, And When You Should Use Them.”  In this article, Ms. Benincasa does an excellent job of describing the difference between managing and leading, going further to discuss leadership styles and the best times to use them.

So, let’s take a look at what Ms. Benincasa has to say about the six leadership styles and when she suggests they should be used:

  1. The pacesetting leader expects and models excellence and self-direction. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do as I do, now.” The pacesetting style works best when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. Used extensively, however, this style can overwhelm team members and squelch innovation.
  1. The authoritative leader mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Come with me.” The authoritative style works best when the team needs a new vision because circumstances have changed, or when explicit guidance is not required. Authoritative leaders inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and vibrant enthusiasm for the mission. It is not the best fit when the leader is working with a team of experts who are more experienced than him or her.
  1. The affiliative leader works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “People come first.” The affiliative style works best in times of stress, when teammates need to heal from a trauma, or when the team needs to rebuild trust. This style should not be used exclusively because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction.
  1. The coaching leader develops people for the future. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Try this.” The coaching style works best when the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall. It is least effective when teammates are defiant and unwilling to change or learn, or if the leader lacks proficiency.
  1. The coercive leader demands immediate compliance. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do what I tell you.” The coercive style is most effective in times of crisis, such as in a company turnaround or a takeover attempt, or during an actual emergency like a tornado or a fire. This style can also help control a problem teammate when everything else has failed. However, it should be avoided in almost every other case because it can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness.
  1. The democratic leader builds consensus through participation. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “What do you think?” The democratic style is most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal, or if he or she is uncertain and needs fresh ideas from qualified teammates. It is not the best choice in an emergency situation when time is of the essence or when teammates are not informed enough to offer sufficient guidance to the leader.

After looking at the six leadership styles that Robin Benincasa has highlighted it is easy to see just how different leadership styles can be, but at the same time they all aim to accomplish the same thing…moving the group towards one common goal.  I think we will find as this series progresses that this is going to become a common theme.


What is Leadership?

As the first piece in a series that will explore leadership in great depth, I would like to start by asking a seemingly simple question.  What is Leadership?

This seems like a simple question, but leadership comes in so many shapes and forms that it can have a different meaning to everyone.  In most dictionaries you will find a vague definition along the lines of “the act of leading” or “the ability to lead a group or organization,” but these definitions do not actually tell us anything about what leadership entails.  In my own words I would describe leadership in its broadest definition as a person or group that guides/directs a group or organization towards a common goal.  However, if you were to ask ten different people what leadership means, there is a good chance that you will get at least eight fundamentally different answers.

For example, I came across a great article called, “10 Ways to Define Leadership” by David Mielach.  In this article Mr. Mielach shares the definitions of leadership that he received when he asked ten business owners for their definition of leadership.  Now, there are not necessarily ten completely unique definitions on the list, but there are no two definitions that are the same.  Two of the definitions that really stood out to me are:


Leadership is the ability to take an average team of individuals and transform them into superstars. The best leader is the one who inspires his workers to achieve greatness each and every day.  –  Jonas Falk, a chef and the CEO of OrganicLife


Leadership is employing your skills and knowledge, leveraged by your attitude to get the results you desire. Philip Gafka, founder of leadership development firm Leap Associates


The reason that these two definitions stood out to me is the difference in what James Falk and Philip Gafka believe leadership should achieve.  Falk believes that leadership should be aiming to inspire greatness everyday while Gafka believes that leadership should simply achieve results.  The other huge difference that jumped out to me is Falk’s reference to leadership inspiring its followers, if you will, while Gafka speaks only on an individual basis, not mentioning the group that leadership should be leading.

The difference between Falk’s and Gafka’s definitions of leadership exemplifies the vast variation in meaning that the word “leadership” can carry.  This variation in meaning makes it important to understand the different types of leaders that exist. And that is where we will pick up next time!


Until then…Cheers!