“I used to think ‘if you didn’t do it my way you were wrong’. Now I realise that different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. If it achieves the agreed aim, without anyone getting hurt along the way, it’s fine by me.”

Client, September 2015

How open to new approaches are you? Do you relish an opportunity to experiment with a new approach or are you firmly wedded to your current – and apparently – successful approaches? Are you happy with allowing your direct reports to do things their own way or are you – at least mildly – put-out if they don’t do it your way?

As renowned coach and author, Marshall Goldsmith says:

“After living with their dysfunctional behaviours for many years people become more interested in defending their dysfunctions than in changing them.”

Last week several clients commented on their new willingness to be open to new, alternative leadership approaches as:

  • “different” (and not “inferior”)
  • an alternative (and not a criticism)
  • something worth exploring (and not something to be fearful or dismissive of)

 

Most people aren’t taught to lead, in fact most leaders will say that they’ve “picked it up as they went along” from experiencing and witnessing other leaders. Some of it was deliberate cherry-picking, some was unconscious modelling of others they admired or detested. There’s nothing wrong with this approach so long as we’re being mindful of what we’re choosing and how we’re operating & we’re enabling others to choose their leadership path, not expecting them to copy ours.

As responsible leaders we need to create the opportunity to stop and think about our preferred style of leadership and enable others to do the same. For most of my clients, coaching is their chance to do that. That’s when the positive disruption happens and they start exploring why they lead, how they lead and how they want to lead in the future. Some even begin to re-evaluate the leadership styles of their direct reports…& find that their different approaches might have merit too. Darn it!

Do any of these stories from last week’s clients resonate?

  • Flora is a very purposeful leader. She knows what she wants to achieve and she has a very clear idea how she’s going to achieve it. Give her an opportunity and she’ll tell you all about it! But she began to recognise that she was becoming entirely drained by always being the one to take the lead and was suppressing the leadership potential of her team members as a result. Now she’s letting them find their own leadership styles and supporting them whilst they do it.  Direct reports who were previously regarded as poor leaders are now stepping up and absolutely flourishing.

 

  • Paul attended a workshop I ran, which was all about embracing the strengths approach: individually and as a team. He rarely has a moment to step back and b-r-e-a-t-h-e, let alone think strategically, but he left the workshop with a clear plan to embrace the strengths of his team and put their strengths at the forefront of all his thinking and planning. Having that space and time enabled him to reconsider how he was leading his team and he decided that he could do it better! It’s a decision that’s already paying off as he’s putting his genuinely energising strengths to the fore for himself too. The energy levels of this over-stretched team have already risen substantially already.

 

  • Jane, used to come across as an arrogant, loud and attention-seeking leader. But through an in-depth 360 degree feedback process she had come to realise that, whilst people found those traits very unappealing, they still saw the great traits beneath them.They saw the real her. That realisation enabled her to let the real her come through more often and she is letting go of the attention-seeking insecurities.  Just as importantly, she’s appreciating that when her direct report lead their teams differently it’s OK too. She’s shifted from “Do it my way!” to “Tell me why and how you lead”. It’s lending itself to much more collaborative, coaching-style & effective leadership of a big team.

 

It’s very tempting to keep leading the same way that we always have …. because it seems to have worked for us and because we’ve gotten used to behaving that way. But becoming more open to alternative approaches and styles can be hugely empowering and energising for you and those around you. Here’s Marshall again,

“If we can stop, listen, and think about what others are seeing in us, we have a great opportunity. We can compare the self that we want to be with the self that we are presenting to the rest of the world. We can then begin to make the real changes that are needed to close the gap between our stated values and our actual behaviour.”

Powerful stuff.

Are you leading the same way you always have or are you willing to take a second look at alternative approaches? What would make it worth your while to change? What might support and enable you to actually make those changes?