Be a Leader, Not a Dictator

Sep 11, 2014

In a recent facilitation, we saw executive leadership take a firm approach addressing the failures of their organization. Rather than burst in like a wrecking ball and rip into the team, they made it very clear failure to innovate and evolve would be the organization’s demise. Team members were encouraged to leave if they weren’t going to provide any help.

We (silently) cheered from the sidelines. Sometimes as a leader you need to be firm with your team, but there’s a fine line between leading with conviction and coming across like a dictator. You have to challenge your team in a way that’s less “preachy” and challenges them to do their best work.

Strategic planning is difficult, especially if your team or action plan fails to meet expectations. It’s really easy to come across frustrated, so it’s essential to harness this energy and use it to your advantage. You’re not wrong for pushing back, but do it constructively without sending your team’s spirit into the garbage disposal.

Here’s a couple of quick tips on how you can lead without being a jerk:

  • Set the tone with Data – Use data to tell your story and highlight where and why you’re failing. Establish a sense of urgency by using historical sales data, customer acquisition, or anything else that gives you a baseline for action. Solid data keeps staff from thinking you’re on an unnecessary tirade.
  • Acknowledge that not all failure is your team’s fault. Some things are just beyond the control of your team, but your team has to deal with them. Sucks, but it’s part of the game.
  • Point out behavior that isn’t helpful. Team behavior and attitude can play a big role in the success or failure of organizational growth and change. Identify (and squash) behavior that hinders progress.
  • Set out a challenge. Learn from your mistakes and challenge your team. Stay dedicated to these challenges, otherwise your credibility will be shot. Keeping everyone consistent, including yourself, gives your organization the opportunity to do an about-face and accomplish your goals.

Great leaders make teams live up to their full potential. They lead with structured expectations, communicating both praise and disappointment (when necessary). It’s ok to communicate frustration, just so long as it can be harnessed to inspire action.

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