As an entrepreneurial leader, you’re responsible for motivating your team, making important decisions and setting an example that the rest of your employees can follow. But how should a leader be?
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History portrays the “ideal” leader as someone who’s somewhat stoic, decisive and charismatic. But the truth is, there are many different styles of leadership that can be effective, depending on how and where they’re used. For example, some companies may benefit from a bold, outspoken and energetic leader, while others will benefit from a quieter, focused, calm leader.
This affords you some degree of flexibility while you’re growing into your new leadership position. There are, however, several styles of leadership that almost never work:
Every decision or action in the professional world falls somewhere on the spectrum of proactive and reactive. Proactive measures are those taken in advance of some expected result, such as warning a client that his or her shipment may be delayed.
Reactive measures are those taken as a reaction to something else that has occurred, such as apologizing to a client for a late shipment with a discount. Generally, however, proactive measures are better than reactive measures, because they prevent bad things from happening rather than simply trying to mitigate damage that’s already occurred.
Accordingly, the reactive style of leadership — characterized by a “let’s-wait-and-see” attitude and delayed decision-making — is rarely effective. Instead, try to be as forward-thinking and as preparatory as possible.
2. Unreasonably optimistic
Healthy optimism can be an asset for a company. Optimism is usually associated with higher morale, and can influence lower employee turnover (and possibly higher productivity). However, as a leader, you need to control your optimism and not let it affect your decision-making.
The reason: An optimist might view favorably an option with a 45 percent chance of success. Such an individual might expect the best out of people, even if history has proven otherwise. An optimist might also trust gut instinct over raw data.
Clearly, all of these positions may lead to poorer decision-making overall. In short, optimism that subverts pragmatism and reason can be dangerous for your company.
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Leaders should remain in firm control of their respective enterprises at all times; they need to be respected, and their orders need to be followed. But at the same time, they shouldn’t control every aspect of the business.
Too often, in a bid to achieve higher productivity (or some other goal), leaders begin micromanaging employees, introducing new rules and regulations, and overseeing even small assignments that employees perform. This obsessive, controlling approach to leadership may get some results in the short term, but if you practice it, you’ll end up tiring yourself out and pushing your employees away, often leading them to pursue other opportunities.
You hired your team members for a reason; you need to trust them to handle the directives you give them. If you can’t trust them, fire them and find ones you can trust.
A distant boss isn’t bad some of the time: As already noted, a hovering, controlling boss is bad, too. However, there comes a point when that distance starts to interfere with morale, direction and productivity. Employees should be able to handle many responsibilities on their own, but there will always be times when they need to request new tools, assistance or even advice to accomplish their directives.
If a boss isn’t there to field these requests, or even worse, provide initial direction, employees will burn out fast. It’s also a good idea, if you’re the boss, to communicate with your team on a regular basis, even if that amounts to little more than small talk; personal interactions facilitate stronger team bonds and more collaboration.
You can tell this one’s bad from the name alone. The narcissistic style of leadership is focused on the self, and it tends to develop in people in love with the idea of being a leader.
They want to be the visible figurehead and achieve glory by making themselves more prominent and more respected. Oftentimes, they do this by taking credit for other team members’ accomplishments, or by undermining team members in an effort to make themselves feel bigger. They may be able to win more press and close more deals, thanks to their charisma. But, ultimately, this style leaves employees and colleagues feeling neglected, underappreciated and unrecognized, which decreases morale and productivity.
So, those are the five extreme styles of leadership. Beyond these, you can (mostly) forge your own path. Your leadership style should come from within you naturally, blending elements of your inherent personality with traits that you suppress or enhance to fit your new surroundings.
The best way to move forward is to find models of leadership that have been successful — such as widely known business or political leaders, or bosses who have made an impression on you. Study up on and learn from their approach.
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You won’t find a perfect blend right away, but you can start with an ideal foundation, and slowly adjust until leadership comes naturally to you, more or less.