There are probably hundreds of definitions of leadership. However, at its essence, leadership is influencing others to accomplish results.
Leadership is not so much about what you do and accomplish on your own. It’s about what you are able to help others accomplish. It’s about how you’re able to influence other people to raise their level of performance to new and better heights and contribute more than they previously thought possible.
‘Power-Wielders’ versus ‘Transformational Leaders’
In 1978 a biographer named James McGregor Burns wrote Leadership, in which he described the lives of people he felt were world-class leaders — Ghandi, Mao, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Stalin and Hitler.
A major conclusion of the book is his differentiation between two types of leaders, whom he called ‘Power-Wielders’ and ‘Transformational Leaders’. The criterion Burns used to make his distinction was the leader’s concern for the wants and needs of their followers.
Putting your team first
According to Burns, power-wielders impose external control on their followers. These are leaders who view their own ends as more important than those of others. In fact, they see others as objects who are either desirable because they are instrumental in helping them gain what they want, or interfere with what they want.
Although these leaders are able to accomplish results in the short-run, they do so at a high price. At best, their tactics result in unthinking followers who learn to keep their heads down and do the minimum possible to avoid getting into trouble. At worst they create an environment of smoldering ill-will or even malicious compliance.
Transformational leaders, on the other hand, care about the needs and interests of their followers as well as their own. They create an environment that elicits motivation and commitment. They view people as capable human beings with their own needs, feelings and opinions. They seek mutually beneficial goals and raise their followers to higher levels of motivation, behaviour and even morality.
These leaders, according to Burns, judge their effectiveness not by their press clippings but by actual social change or the transformation of individual and organisational attitudes and behaviour.
Applying vertical dimension assertiveness
Expanding on Burns’ theme, I want to introduce a two dimensional model of leadership behaviour. Dr Roger K Allen calls the vertical dimension assertiveness, which has to do with concern for self in a business situation. People who are high on assertiveness put their ideas forward and influence the way others think and behave. They like to ‘take charge’ and move other people into action.
They are concerned with results — getting things done and making things happen. People who are low on the assertiveness dimension are less concerned with taking charge and seeking their own outcomes. They are more passive, easy-going, and reluctant to make their views known. They will allow others to take the lead and will let things happen rather than trying to make them happen.
He calls the horizontal dimension empathy, which has to do with concern for others and making sure their needs are met. People who are high on this dimension are sensitive to the needs, opinions and feelings of other people. They show high levels of respect and even goodwill and affection towards others.
They are open-minded, optimistic about others’ motives and capability, and are willing to be influenced by them. Those who are low on this dimension tend to be more self-centred rather than other-centred. They are less aware or responsive to other people’s ideas, feelings or needs and are sceptical about others’ motives and/or abilities.
By combining these two dimensions we come up with four styles of leadership: Dominate, avoid, accommodate, and collaborate. Of course, leaders can fall anywhere along either dimension of the model and so not everyone is a ‘pure’ or extreme type. However, everyone can be characterised as having natural tendencies in one or another of the quadrants. The chart on this page illustrates the differences between these four styles of leadership.
Dominators: Low empathy, high assertiveness
Dominators (Quadrant 1 leaders) are people who lead through command and control. They tell others what to do and expect them to do it. Because they are low on the empathy scale, they don’t care about what others think or how they respond. They simply want results.
They like to run the show with little help or advice from others. They make their own decisions and tend to micromanage. These leaders use external rewards and threats of punishment to motivate.
“If you do what I want, I’ll take care of you.” “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll make trouble for you.” They are concerned about results and more concerned with ends than means. They are ‘can do’ people who have high expectations for themselves and others and know how to get things done.
Avoiders: Low assertiveness and empathy
Avoiders (Quadrant 2 leaders) are low on both dimensions of assertiveness and empathy. They preserve the status quo, keep a low profile and stay out of trouble. They play it safe by postponing decisions and avoiding conflict. They rarely initiate change but will be loyal and carry out decisions that others (boss) have made.
Avoiders may be good technically but they provide little direction to others. They stick with proven methods and avoid risks. Employees of these people get very little reinforcement and are unlikely to have a great deal of interaction with their boss.
Accommodators: High empathy, low assertiveness
Accommodators (Quadrant 3 leaders) like to keep people happy and maintain high morale. They treat people with warmth and friendship, believing that building positive relationships is the best way to motivate people and keep productivity high. They are generally easy going and overlook mistakes.
They have a difficult time setting up structure and accountability, preferring to let people figure out for themselves how to do their jobs. These leaders are quick with praise and have a difficult time addressing problems. They tend to be sociable and may spend time chatting about topics other than work.
Collaborators: High assertiveness and empathy
Collaborators (Quadrant 4 leaders) are high on both assertiveness and empathy. They have high expectations, set goals, and expect results. They can be perceived by others as demanding and yet seek to involve other people in making decisions and solving problems rather than doing it alone. These leaders recognise their own authority and don’t let pleasing others override their opinions.
They are more optimistic about people’s capabilities and motives than dominators and so, after providing direction, allow them autonomy and self-governance. They deliberately coach and develop their people. They are willing to have difficult conversations when performance falls short or differences exist, but they do so seeking win-win outcomes rather than imposing their own will on others.
Collaborators in action
An example of a quadrant 4 leader is Mike Krzyzewski, coach of the Duke Bluedevils basketball team. Krzyzewski was an unknown when he came to coach Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, in 1980. He had been an assistant coach at West Point. But no one knew him at Duke. In his first years, he suffered some humiliating defeats and by the end of his third year, he was booed in his own gym.
On 11 March 1980, he suffered the worst defeat in school history and lost a game by a score of 109 to 66. His overall win/loss record was 38 and 47. When someone recommended that he recruit new players, he responded, “Absolutely not.”
“Losing doesn’t make you a loser unless you think you are.” He wrote the names of five players, including four freshmen, that would play on the team the next year.
Coach ‘K’ as he is affectionately known, is now one of the best in America. His record (end of 2007 season) was 803-267 (.750 average). He’s averaged 25 wins per season throughout his career. 61 of his 65 players have gone to a final four during his tenure and he’s won three NCAA titles.
During March 2005, Krzyzewski appeared in a television ad sponsored by NCAA. He made the point that he was more than a coach of basketball. His primary job was to develop his players into capable young men.
Like Coach Krzyzewski, the best type of leaders are Collaborators. They set high standards and press people to achieve outstanding results, and yet they make positive assumptions about people and believe that developing them is one of their most important leadership tasks. For some, these two critical dimensions of leadership come naturally.
However, most of us need to remember that both dimensions are important. As we do we’ll expand our reach, influencing more and more people to achieve the best results of which they are capable.
Why Elon Musk’s Vision Should Change Your Business
If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, there’s no sitting on the fence, its one or the other.
It’s about the big picture
Elon Musk is the kind of guy who probably divides the room wherever he goes; in the same way that people either prefer Superman or Batman, soccer or rugby, maybe summer or winter. There’s no sitting on the fence. It’s one or the other. You either like Elon Musk or you don’t. But this article is not about him, its about you and how you are leading your business.
Love him or hate him, I don’t believe any business leader can get away from the fact that Elon Musk, possibly more than any other contemporary entrepreneur, is going to have an influence over your business. And if he doesn’t, he should, not as an individual as much as an archetype.
In the early 2000s another famous South African born entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth was the first South African to become a space tourist. We were all proud, and asked ourselves what we would do if we had billions of Rands… how would you spend it? Mark’s rigorous preparation and orbit in space riveted the nation, from coffee break conversations to television documentaries and Grade 5 school projects. Everyone was talking about it. Mark’s trip was ultimately the fulfilment of one man’s personal ambition, a dream long-held and finally fulfilled.
Aligning the planets
Elon Musk seems to be a different kind of dreamer. He does not only dream for himself, he dreams for humanity and that is rare. It is also why I think that his vision is something that every business leader should take note of. Look at any Start-up:101 Pitch Deck and you’ll likely see Guy Kawasaki’s famous 10, 20, 30 format and the first slide trying to answer the question, “What problem are you solving?”
Imagine setting yourself the problem of transitioning humanity into becoming a “multi-planetary species”, as Musk famously declared in a 2017 TED interview, and if that’s not enough, you are also working to revolutionise transport and save the environment through clean energy. In my view, Elon Musk (flawed as he may be) represents, two essential qualities that are absolutely indispensable for leaders and businesses of the future: Hope and Vision.
The lever that Musk has chosen to crank open the future, restore hope and unlock his vision, is technology. Misunderstood and much maligned, technology; like Musk, also instantly divides a room.
Technophiles on the one side, technophobes on the other and you must choose. You cannot half use technology, you either opt in or you opt out. The only choice is whether you will use technology responsibly or not. This is no small question and something that many business leaders (including Musk) have shown some commitment to by adding their support to organisations such as the Future of Life Institute.
Ships are not built to stay in the harbour
Technology is agnostic, it is neither good or bad. It’s influence lies in how you choose to use it. With so much talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and how it is going to impact our lives and, in a business context, the lives of our employees it seems prudent that, as leaders, we establish a clear vision for technology in our businesses with due cognisance of how it is likely to impact our staff and our customers alike.
A business that integrates machine learning and AI into its business management system, for example, may in future have unprecedented access to information, provide intuitive robotic support 24/7, and the power to influence behaviour. This goes beyond ‘old-school’ marketing and advertising, heading into untested waters.
While we should rightly rely on our policy makers and legislators to put regulatory frameworks in place to guide how we use technology, as business leaders we should already be taking the first steps towards developing a technology-use policy in our businesses.
Like Musk, our aim should be to bring hope and share a vision. A hope that, even with the threat of diminishing resources in our businesses, we are up to the task of conceiving novel and exciting alternatives that, even if it looks different than in the past, are able to meet the needs of our people. And a vision, not just to increase shareholder value or to be the leaders in our field, but something aspirational.
A commitment to lift eyes and hearts with a big vision, maybe not for interplanetary travel, but at least to let your Enterprise boldly go where it has not gone before, not as a tourist, but as the captain of your ship. Because if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, there’s no sitting on the fence, its one or the other.
6 Ways To Lead In The Multi-leader Economy
Why business leaders today compete for mindshare among their employees, and how they can lead.
I recently attended an event where a CEO delivered the company’s annual results and outlined its future strategy. He closed the talk with some inspirational content to get the team excited about the year ahead.
While I listened to this business leader speak, I also had my eye on the audience. While the content was relevant and inspiring, the narrative and delivery was off. This was evident in the audience, who seemed disengaged – most had their faces in their phones. These employees, who should be inspired by their leader, were simply biding their time, waiting for the next speaker.
Was it because they’re generally rude, disengaged people? Not at all. In fact, they were a phenomenally switched-on crowd when we presented to them. So why weren’t they listening intently to the proverbial captain of the ship?
Leadership competition hotting up
I believe it’s because leaders today are competing for the attention of those they lead. People are exposed to hundreds of potential leaders in their daily lives, and that number grows daily as the internet brings a whole host of outside influence into reach.
While many of these influencers are not tasked with leading, per se, great leaders seldom have to force a following. They naturally build one through an innate ability. They achieve this by delivering inspiring and engaging content on a regular basis via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, podcasts or TED.com.
And it’s not just inspirational visionaries like Jobs or Branson who people listen to today. Anyone with a strong message can self-publish to spark debate, inspire or influence.
Understand the new dynamic
Accordingly, whenever a leader steps up to deliver something relevant to their team, they need to be aware that in the past 24 hours their audience has probably watched people like Simon Sinek, Mel Robbins or Will Smith deliver a message that could spark a different way of thinking.
If you’re a business leader and have not considered the possibility that your team is also being influenced and, often, led by a host of other leaders, then you’re in for a tough time. The reality is that leaders now face fierce competition, and as the head of an organisation you need to take charge and own that space.
Here’s how you can take the lead in leadership:
1. Maintain face-to-face engagements
This is still the best way to work, especially when talking about important matters. I have a standing one-hour meeting with my team every three weeks. I open this session with a 10-15 minute talk on a specific topic I feel is important. The remaining time is used for open discussion. These sessions have been incredibly powerful, because it’s an opportunity for everyone to have their say, share their views and contribute to growing the business and the team, together.
2. Write narrative that catalyses conversation
This pertains to the content of your engagements. This needs to be something that’s not only on your agenda, but also on your employees’ agenda. People need both answers and guidance, but when leaders and teams can work on both aspects together, magic happens.
3. Deliver with conviction
Leaders often throw out a concern, hoping that it gets resolved. You can’t do that. Leaders need to stand up and deliver with passion to galvanise their teams. Sure, be part of the conversation, and ensure that your team knows how important it this, but understand that it’s more than just a conversation.
4. Get them to challenge you
The proverbial ‘open door policy’ requires employees to walk up to the door. Our regular team session offers me the opportunity to ask everyone, collectively, about their thoughts on a subject. I’m basically standing at the open door and asking them to come in, and not just randomly, but to discuss something pertinent.
5. Make the changes required
After listening to your team, take action. Due to the influence of social media, society today is plagued by “ask-holes” – people who ask for advice or ideas, but never action them. Leaders need to listen and take action. Not that you should do everything you team asks, of course, but listening is the first step to understanding, and action needs to follow.
6. Rinse, repeat
Effective leadership is not an annual speaking engagement. It requires constant work to keep teams focused on the business. The biggest failure in most businesses is a lack of communication, which is something leaders need to constantly work on.
Want To Achieve Greatness? Force Everyone Out Of Their Comfort Zones
Diverse teams are better performing teams, but only when they are inclusive.
Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance.
Diverse teams are smarter teams. They have higher rates of innovation, error detection and creative problem solving. In environments that possess diverse stakeholders, being able to have different perspectives in the room may even enable more alignment with varied customer needs.
Being able to think from different perspectives actually lights up areas of the brain, such as the emotional centres needed for perspective taking that would previously not be activated in similar or non-diverse groups.
In a nutshell, you use more of your brain when you encourage different perspectives by including different views in the room. However, work done at the NeuroLeadership Institute has proven that this only works when diverse teams are inclusive, and this still remains a key challenge in business today.
When we consider the amount of diversity present in the modern workplace and the addition of more diverse thinking as a result of globalisation and the use of virtual work teams, it’s clear that the ability to unlock the power of diversity is just waiting to be unleashed.
Here’s how you can unlock this powerful performance driver.
The Social Brain
Despite the rich sources of diversity present in most workplaces, companies are still often unable to leverage the different perspectives available to them in driving business goals. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have enabled us to understand why. The major breakthrough has centred around the basic needs of the social brain.
We have an instinctual need to continually define whether we are within an in-group or an out-group. This is an evolutionary remnant of the brain that enabled us to strive to remain within a herd or group where we had access to social support structures, food and potential mates. If we were part of the out-group it could literally have meant life or death. We are therefore hypersensitive to feelings of exclusion as it affected our survival.
The brain is further hardwired for threat and unconsciously scans our environments for threats five times a second. This means, coupled with our life or death need for group affiliation, we are hypersensitive to finding sameness and a need for in-group inclusion.
When we heard a rustle in a bush it was safer to assume that it may be a lion than a gust of wind. It is this threat detection network that has kept us alive until today. The challenge is that society has developed faster than our brains. In times of uncertainty we often jump to what is more threatening.
Some of the ways that this plays out is when we leave someone out of an email and they begin to wonder why they were left out. The problem is that it’s easy to unconsciously exclude someone if we are not actively including. The trouble occurs when we incorrectly use physical proxies to define in-group and out-group, as this is the most readily available evidence used unconsciously by the brain.
Barriers to Inclusion
A study done between a diverse group and non-diverse group demonstrates how this plays out in the work place. Both groups completed a challenging task and were asked how they felt they did as a team after the exercise.
The effectiveness of the team and how they perceived effectiveness were both measured in the study. It’s no surprise that the diverse team did better in the completion of the problem-solving task, but what is surprising is that they felt they did not do well. In contrast, the non-diverse team did worse, but felt that they had done well.
Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance. It feels easier to work in a team where we feel at ease in sameness, but in that environment we are more prone to groupthink and are less effective.
We can’t assume that when we place diverse teams together we will automatically reap the rewards of higher team performance. As discussed, we’re hardwired for sameness and if we’re not actively including, we may be unconsciously excluding.
If we want diversity to become a silver bullet, we need to actively make efforts to find common ground amongst disparate team members. This in turn will build team cohesion and create a sense of unity, including reminders of a shared purpose and shared goals. Many global businesses put an emphasis on a shared corporate culture that supersedes individual difference.
It’s the same mechanism that is used in science fiction films that bond individuals together against a common alien invasion. It can also be used to describe why we felt such a great sense of accomplishment during the 2010 World Cup as we banded together as a nation.
We must also make sure we uplift all team members by sharing credit widely when available and recognising performance. The last thing we can do to further inclusion is to create clarity for teams. By removing ambiguity, we allow individuals to not jump to conclusions about their membership within groups and calm their minds so they can use their mental capacity to focus on the task at hand.
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