By Jon Lokhorst, CPA, PCC
Is it possible for you to be a good boss and at the same time underperform, or even fail, as a leader in your organization?
That was the opening question during "Mission-Critical Leadership: How Smart Managers Lead Well in All Directions," a full-day training experience offered during PICPA’s 125th Annual Meeting and Celebration in June. The premise behind the question is that most leadership development focuses on a single direction in the organizational hierarchy: downstream to direct reports. But this method is an incomplete view of leadership that could lead to diminished effectiveness or derailment as a leader.
To be successful as a leader, you must lead well in all directions. That includes leading up to your boss, across with your colleagues, and in front of your team. All leadership, though, starts with self-leadership.
Know Those You Lead at a Deeper Level
Throughout the day, participants in our training at the Annual Meeting offered numerous tips and ideas on how to master this type of multidirectional leadership. One prevailing theme was to go beyond the surface and get to know your superiors, peers, and team members better as individuals. One participant suggested using assessment tools to better understand what makes each person tick, paving the way to more healthy, productive working relationships within your team.
There are several excellent assessment tools on the market. Personally, I use the companion Path4 and Path6 assessments from RightPath Resources, as they focus specifically on workplace behavior. The RightPath profile highlights each person’s unique strengths and struggles, providing insights on leadership style, communication preferences, keys to good working relationships, and approach to change.
Recognizing unique differences will help you build the trust and influence necessary to lead well in all directions. Approach each person on their unique personality, style, and preferences. Watch for ways these factors influence team dynamics, and generate talking points, questions, and observations to build stronger relationships within your team.
Leverage Differences to Navigate Change
Just gathering information on those you work with would be almost futile if you don’t put what you find to use. Here are a few real-life examples of applying what you learn about your team members as well as suggestions on how to lead them effectively through a change process.
- Invite directive members of your team to discuss potential changes as they emerge. Individuals are more willing to support change efforts when they’ve had a part in shaping them. Once decisions are made, they make strong partners in rolling out change initiatives and executing them.
- Assign creative thinkers to explore new ideas and alternatives to meet the challenges at hand. Provide avenues for brainstorming and collaboration. Establish a framework to capture their best ideas, and leverage their strengths to create a culture of innovation.
- Give team members who are introverted the time and space to think about new initiatives before asking them to respond. Because they are internal processors, they like to think before they talk. They’re also more likely to share ideas when asked questions that draw them into the discussion.
- Engage extroverts in conversation throughout the change process. Tap into their natural energy to explore ideas in the discovery and planning phases. Leverage their interpersonal skills to communicate change initiatives and build excitement.
- Provide detail-oriented team members with enough information to show concern for the practical application of new ideas. These analytical individuals can be skeptical about the feasibility of change initiatives, but their traits position them to find gaps and weaknesses in plans for implementation. Invite their hard questions and input as you shape plans.
- Lean on your most relationship-oriented individuals to gauge how the rest of the team is doing. They will often be concerned about the impact of potential change on the people involved. This natural intuition for the health and well-being of their colleagues makes them well-suited to monitor morale and recognize when there’s a need to rally the troops.
Be a Leader Everyone Wants to Follow
Successful leadership is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Success requires a customized approach to leading your team members and colleagues by understanding their unique strengths, struggles, goals, and desires. Invest the time and effort needed to gain this understanding and build healthy, productive relationships with those you lead. As a result, you will build trust and influence to help you become a leader everyone wants to follow.
Jon Lokhorst, CPA, PCC, is a leadership coach, corporate trainer, and the author of Mission-Critical Leadership: How Smart Managers Lead Well in All Directions. Before launching Lokhorst Consulting LLC, he enjoyed a 30-plus-year career as a CPA, CFO, and organizational leader. Lokhorst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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