WHAT KIND OF LEADER ARE YOU?
Leadership. It’s nothing new. Since the dawn of creation, leaders have arisen and done their “leadership thing”—whatever “thing” that is. And probably since the inception of leadership, leaders have ruminated on different styles, best approaches, worst methods, and everything in between.
I’m sure in your experience you’ve witnessed several leaders or managers that you were impressed with, and an equal if not greater amount that you were less than impressed with.
As I have witnessed leadership in action over the last 10 years. I’ve been around some really great ones and some sub-par ones for sure. Great leadership is impressive to me. It’s inspiring. It’s energizing. But poor leadership drives me absolutely crazy. What I find interesting is that people who brag about how great their leadership is are quite often the ones who are the poorest leaders. Let me get real for a second…If you have to talk about how great you can lead and convince me of it, usually you are covering up the fact that you can’t.
I’ve thought a lot about leadership lately. In some small way, we’re all leaders. We all have some kind of influence over or potential impact on someone else we come into contact with in our day-to-day living. And in reality, very few of us are the great leaders we think we are.
As I’ve encountered and observed leadership lately in a variety of capacities, my random brain has begun developing mental images. Images of big machines as related to different styles of leadership. See if you can draw any parallels to your own style of leadership and/or that of others. Check it out:
- The Bulldozer — You see a problem and instantly react. You plow through decisions full speed ahead. Your methods aren’t necessarily well thought out or well planned out. You face a challenge and carve a straight path to a solution, leaving fractures of people and teams in the wake of your path. And in the end, everyone knows you’ve been there because of the broken pieces you’ve left at the edges of your trail.
- The Steamroller — You don’t like bumps in the road. You see them as challenges to your authority. You see a problem and simply want to smooth it over or flatten it out. Unlike the bulldozer, you can turn and navigate your path a little better. But in order for you to act, you’ve got to get heated up first. And when you feel the heat, the steam comes shortly thereafter. In the end, you may have removed the bumps and smoothed things over, but because of your hot-headedness you may have flattened some relationships in the process.
- The Dump Truck – You’re big and heavy and like to throw your weight around. You’re loud and boisterous. When you see a problem, you back into it (beeping all the way so people are sure to take notice), and pile your own solutions on top of it. You can come at the issue with different angles, which can sometimes be pretty impressive. And once you dump your solutions, it appears as if the problem is fixed. But all you’ve done is cover it up. In the end, the real issues were never properly addressed, and chances are they’ll resurface over time.
- The Backhoe – You face a challenge and before you act, you assess the situation. You study what exactly needs to be done and where exactly you need to position yourself in order to produce the best result. Once carefully positioned, you methodically and patiently dig to the root of the problem. When the hole is dug and the problem is solved, you refill the hole taking great care to see that there is no residual damage left behind. In the end and over time, because of your well devised planning and execution, it hardly appears that you’ve been involved.
In his book Heroic Leadership, Chris Lowney says, “Leaders thrive by understanding who they are and what they value, by becoming aware of unhealthy blind spots or weaknesses that can derail them, and by cultivating the habit of continuous self-reflection and learning.”
What kind of leader are you? If you’re in leadership and you have the courage, ask someone close to you to evaluate your style with regard to the big machines I’ve described. You just might learn something. And in order to be better leaders, don’t we all need to do a little self-reflection…and learning?