When we speak of growth in a business context, invariably we’re referring to the bottom line. But growth also applies to each of us, especially those in leadership positions. For founders in the early stages of their journey as much as the seasoned entrepreneur, knowing what kind of leader you are doesn’t only help you lead more effectively, but also to improve on your own shortcomings.
Whether you’ve got a solid grasp of the type of leader you are, or just a good idea of the type of leader you want to be, here are some examples of leadership approaches identified by those in the know.
Leading with love
You may be wondering what the words ‘love’ and ‘leadership’ are doing together in the same sentence, but this approach is one grounded in a relatable, realistic concept which translates well to any sector. HR specialist Jill Aburrow explains that the key is to separate the feeling of love from the actions we take when we feel love. That way, it becomes easy to see how this is a viable management method.
For dealings with others to be pleasant and effective, we really need to love those people. We need to want the best for them, want them to succeed, put ourselves out for them and help them. The underlying reason we do these things may be that we want them to do the same for us. We all have a need for love – or to be liked, if you prefer – and the workplace is no different from anywhere else.
The additional benefit of leading in a ‘loving’ way is that the more you give out, the more you get back. In a work context this translates to employees more willing to stay the extra hour or go the extra mile to get the job done. Even with difficult situations like redundancies, disciplinaries and even dismissals, a caring approach can reposition you as someone helping them through a difficult time, as oppose to an authoritarian doling out punishment.
Leading by listening
It’s unlikely this is the first time you will have heard the argument or oft-shared wisdom to ‘talk less, listen more’, but what does it really mean to be a listening leader? As innovation management firm Sideways 6 put it, a listening leader is anyone who, as a key part of their leadership strategy, enable and encourage their employees and colleagues to voice their opinions and ideas about the business in a constructive, mutually-beneficial way. They believe, given an adequate channel of communication, employees are able to positively affect everything about a business from the top challenges to the bottom line.
Of these myriad benefits, often the most valuable outcome is increased employee engagement. This helps drive recruitment and retention, which can save your business thousands for every employee retained, not to mention being able to avoid the loss of skilled and experienced team members. After all, as with much in life work processes are only as effective as they are inclusive. Listening and responding appropriately to your employees’ difficulties, challenges and needs will not only help your startup to operate smoothly, it will also improve morale and the feeling of belonging which are so integral to all successful teams.
Leading with a moral compass
As boundaries between work and home life become increasingly blurred, how leaders approach this relatively new situation will undoubtedly influence how employees engage with the organisations they work for. As the Resilience Development Company see it, the higher up someone is on the organisational ladder, the greater the expectation for high levels of trust and moral decision-making. When it comes to true leadership, we expect leaders to do the right thing and understand the fundamental principles of right and wrong.
While this understanding translates well into startups where teams are often relatively small and relationships more immediate, as companies grow, leaders become more powerful and its employee’s potentially more vulnerable. As leaders, mistakes will always be made, but as long as you take responsibility and learn from them, people will forgive, forget and help you improve processes and procedures.
Poor leadership which undermines trust and belief will fundamentally impact engagement levels, productivity, and the mental health and wellbeing of those they lead. That is what will remain in people’s hearts and minds long into the future and the thing all effective leaders will want to avoid.
When all is said and done, there’s no definitive right or wrong, although there almost certainly are better and worse ways to go about it. A business leader might lean more heavily to one style than another, or incorporate different aspects and approaches depending on the stage of their career, past experience and the context in which they operate. Which kind of leader are you?