Leadership styles – Being an expert in everything

Leadership stylesOne of the first things we notice about good leaders is how many different yet effective types of leadership styles there are. While one of these leadership styles will be authentically right for you, and it might be very different to the leadership styles adopted by others in your organisation.

But regardless of your personal leadership style, there is one trap we find new leaders fall into, far too frequently.

No one person is an expert in everything and the fact that you are leading a team certainly doesn’t mean you know everything that everyone on your team does.

In fact, the job of a leader has more to do with knowing what needs to be known than knowing everything.

Once we know what needs to be known it becomes possible to acquire either that knowledge, or the people who have the knowledge. The most effective leadership styles reinforce this. Leadership styles that demand all-encompassing leadership expertise demotivate other team members.

Good leaders need to be confident enough in their own leadership styles and positions to be able to ask the people who do know, and to still take charge (without all the knowledge) when the situation requires it.

Yet so often when I am mentoring managers and executives I come across people who feel under great pressure to be an expert in everything, just because they are in charge. And their leadership styles reflect this. They are concerned that their lack of detailed knowledge of some of the things their team members are doing will make it too hard for them to earn the respect of their people or even undermine their authority.

But it isn’t necessarily so. I’ve known outstanding leaders who knew little about the technical detail of what their team members individually did who still displayed really effective leadership styles.

So much of your success in this sort of situation depends on your personal leadership styles.  In particular on the way you pay respect to the team members who do have the knowledge, without relinquishing your own role as team leader. Effective leadership styles achieve this by placing focus on the contributions of every of team member, including the team leader, rather than on individual deficiencies – even their own.

Expertise and Leadership Styles

However, there are plenty of things a leader does need to be expert in.

Even though good leaders may not know how to do everything each individual team member does, they will always know exactly what each team member contributes. They will know what needs to be done. They will know how to build a diverse group into a well functioning team, how to change attitudes and manage organizational change. They will know how and when to listen, and when to act.

All in all, when you are in charge of a team you need to be expert, not in the work your people do, but in all the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours of being a leader.

Whatever leadership styles different effective leaders display, they all have this in common.

Leave a comment below to share what you think are the most effective leadership styles.

Is there a risk your key people make you vulnerable?

risk you are vulnerableIn one of the seminars I present we do a quick organisational vulnerability audit or risk assessment. Regularly, participants list key person dependency as one of their organisation’s critical vulnerabilities.

The fact is that people do get hit by buses, laid low by the ‘flu, headhunted by competitors, or worse…

How well are you equipped to handle a risk such as the loss of one of your key team members?

What if it happened in the middle of a crisis? Or is there a risk that such an event would actually precipitate a crisis for you? How much valuable information or experience would you lose if you lost one of your key people? Can you affors the risk?

Easy risk management

One of your easiest protective actions is to ensure that your key individual’s second-in-charge is being mentored, coached and developed as a future leader and is aware of organisational issues beyond their responsibility.

Coaching or mentoring at each level in your organisation is a powerful way to encourage your team leaders and managers to think beyond their day-to-day responsibilities and contribute more to your business.  By recognising their value through a special coaching program you can also show your appreciation and develop their skills and commitment further at the same time as you reduce your own business risk.

Quote of Note

“There is no one who is successful today who has done the whole thing on their own …”

Jackie Stewart

I’ve heard some people say that training and developing people is a waste of resources because they might leave.

Smart leaders know that it is worse not to train and develop people, because there is a real risk they might stay!

See more details here on our Executive Coaching and Business Coaching Services

Investing in the development of your organisation’s current and future leaders is not just good risk negotiation, it’s essential to your long term business success.

Any other ideas?

Group Conflict

What to do When Group Dynamics or Group Conflict are a Problem

scream and shout

Once you are promoted to a group leadership role you will find yourself responsible for meeting or group facilitation as a regular part of your role. So it is important you develop the skills required to manage group dynamics and handle any group conflict effectively.

Aside from routine team meetings, there are many other groups you may be called upon to facilitate.  Strategic planning workshops, incident debriefs, departmental meetings, external events or conferences and more. So it makes sense to ensure you know enough about group facilitation to decide whether you should do it yourself or bring in external professional facilitators in a given situation.

Although group facilitating might sometimes look easy, for many people the workshop facilitation skills required to achieve a satisfactory outcome can be more of a challenge than anticipated.

As a workshop facilitator, you need to be particularly conscious of group dynamics, including any pre-existing or emerging group conflict, and manage the process and personalities, all while you remain focused on the specific outcomes and results you are trying to achieve. This can be very difficult to do, if you also want to contribute to the discussion.

A good professional facilitator will be acutely aware of the group dynamics, including any potential group conflict, when facilitating a workshop, debriefing session, strategic planning process or meeting.

Here are three critical aspects of group dynamics a meeting facilitator must manage:

Group Conflict

Work group conflict is one aspect of meetings that worries many people, but when it is managed properly by an experienced group facilitator, it can be quite positive.

In fact, groups that suppress differences of style, opinion or approach or never discuss any underlying group conflict, are rarely as successful over the long term as those that accept and even encourage discussion about areas of dissent or group conflict.

When you are exploring long term options in a strategic planning process, different perspectives and disagreements are a healthy part of work communication and should be both encouraged and respected.

If you are bringing in an external facilitator for your meeting or workshop and you expect conflict within the group, you should discuss your concerns with any potential group facilitators in advance. This way you can be confident the professional facilitators you select will incorporate group exercises that ensure all participants have the opportunity to express themselves appropriately.

When conflict persists a skilled meeting facilitator will still be able to build understanding and a level of consensus about the next actions to be taken, despite any group conflict.

Dominant Personalities

Another important aspect of group dynamics to consider is whether there are any dominant personalities in the group who may make it difficult for others to contribute fully to the workshop.

The professional facilitators role in this situation is to ensure everyone participates in all group exercises and discussions, not just dominant, extroverted or senior members of the group.

In some situations it may be necessary to address cultural expectations of who should speak or when someone should speak. Some individuals or cultural groups expect to be asked for their input before they will contribute to discussions and a good facilitator will ensure everyone is explicitly invited to contribute to each key discussion or group exercises during the meeting or workshop.

Assumptions

The final aspect of group dynamics I want to address is that of assumptions. When people work together, or spend a lot of time together, it becomes easy to assume that everyone shares the same point of view or perspective on a whole range of matters, including how people will interact with each other as well as the topic under discussion.

A skilled meeting facilitator will be focused on detecting and questioning assumptions. Common assumptions that may need to be made explicit and addressed revolve around the program agenda and expected outcomes, and about exactly how the workshop will be run.

To facilitate a positive group dynamic and productive group exercises, group agreement should be sought about how things that might otherwise be assumed will be handled. Agreement should be sought about things such as interruptions and phone calls, breaks and punctuality, confidentiality and respect, listening to other participants and even speaking one at a time, for example.

If you decide that the group facilitating role is one you can (or need to) handle yourself, focusing on these three key areas of group dynamics – including group conflict, personalities and assumptions – will help you to gain most from your group leadership role.

Kerrie Mullins-Gunst (MBA, BSc, DipEd, FAICD, FRACI) is an experienced and professional business facilitator. Call our office on 03-9859 3924 today to discuss your group facilitation needs.

Should you decide that you will be more likely to overcome any group conflict issues and achieve your desired outcomes by using an external group facilitator, please call us on 03-9859 3924 to discuss how we can help you with professional meeting facilitation.

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