Identifying and adapting your leadership style
Leaders are often under enormous pressure to generate results, and sometimes this pressure can manifest into a leadership style that’s overtly harsh, causing employees to fold under the intensity.
There are four primary leadership styles: Pragmatist, Idealist, Steward and Diplomat. Examples of strong, successful leaders can be found in each of these styles, but one style in particular runs a greater risk of being construed as overly harsh… the Pragmatist.
Pragmatists have very high standards, and expect themselves and their employees to meet those standards. Often bold thinkers, they’re driven, competitive, goal oriented and unafraid of taking the road-less-travelled. Be warned though, this leadership style can be exhausting for employees.
Some leaders don’t care if they’re considered hard or harsh. They weren’t hired to make friends, but to deliver results, right? However, results are harder to achieve with a demotivated team. Challenging or difficult tasks, which can often be motivating, especially to high performers, can quickly turn into ‘impossible’ ones.
We’ve listed, below, two signs that might suggest your employees are feeling overwhelmed by this particular leadership style.
Watch and listen to what your team do and say. Performance is impacted by mental state, employees feeling overwhelmed or panicked won’t, typically, perform as well as those in a more relaxed state-of-mind. Anxious employees make mistakes and miss deadlines, and when this happens they’ll often catastrophize, saying things like “I just can’t do this” or “I’ll never finish in time”, etc.
Catastrophizing, by definition, is to view or present a situation to be considerably worse than it actually is, and anxious employees are especially prone to catastrophizing. When you hear the words ‘never,’ ‘impossible’ or ‘can’t,’ you may have a potential anxiety issue.
At this point, you should tread carefully. Reduce your intensity by 20-30%, soften your voice and break the project/task down into smaller, less overwhelming, pieces. This will present your employee(s) with an opportunity to regain their composure, and subsequently improve their performance.
Hiding bad news
Every company receives, and has to deal with, bad news. Mistakes will be made, deadlines will be missed and customers will be disappointed. It’s not always possible to prevent bad things from happening, but you can ensure that you know about them as and when they do!
Hiding or denying it doesn’t make it go away. It simply makes it worse. Leaders who understand the importance of knowing what’s going wrong normally have a higher career survival rate. But, to know what’s going wrong, you need employees or team members who feel comfortable enough under your stewardship to tell the truth.
If the flow of ‘bad news’ is weak-to-non-existent, this could be a sign that your team are too scared to approach you with the truth. If that’s the case, your leadership style has probably become too hard.
Adopting a more empathetic approach can help turn the tide. Try asking your employees what’s getting in their way and what can be done to help fix it. When you get honest answers, avoid pointing fingers or placing blame, instead be grateful for the insight you’ve received and use it to help increase productivity and re-engage with your workforce.
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