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Two Questions to Help You Change Your Leadership Style

Jul 24, 2008
Do you want to change your leadership style? Perhaps you've discovered something in particular that you want to do, or do differently.

And this, of course, is the problem. You want to change something you do, but the folks in the office just aren't expecting you to change anything. They don't WANT you to change anything.

Also, some people around you may be suspicious or cynical. Not all of them, maybe, but enough to make it tricky to change.

So no matter how enthusiastic or motivated you might be to make a change, all of the 'noise' around you makes you reluctant, or resistant, to change. The pain of change seems worse than the gain of change.

So you stop even thinking about change. And soon you're as cynical and suspicious as all the rest. And nothing ever changes.

If this sluggish feeling is familiar to you, then what you're experiencing is the heavy inertia of 'the way things work round here'. It's the power of the status quo to weigh heavy on you and stop you from changing anything.

How can you start the change process? What you urgently need to do is find ways over or round the inertia. And the questions to ask are these:

1. When is it easier to change my leadership style?
2. What will help me to change my leadership style?

First, it's easier to change your leadership style when you take a new job or a new role in another department. In a new role, you can set out your plans for the new team and you can change the way you manage or lead the team. This is, of course, because no one knows you from your previous role. They don't know the old boss.

You can also change your leadership style at the start of every new project. Every beginning is an opportunity to restart or relaunch your leadership style.

Of course, you may still have tricky issues to deal with - people asking 'why the sudden change?' - so there is something else you need to do: create a Leadership Manifesto to overcome inertia

A Leadership Manifesto will make it easier for you to change your leadership style.
The Manifesto - like a manifesto for a political party - is an outline sketch of what you're trying to do. And, importantly, it's also a sketch of HOW you're planning to do it.

Drafting and actually discussing a one-page leadership manifesto with your team is a great way of getting people moving anyway, and the idea of a manifesto helps people focus round what you're trying to achieve.

Now your manifesto could address any of the issues you feel are important for the team to address. Here are just three suggestions:

1. Collaborative goal setting versus boss-centred goal setting. You may want to work with people to help them set goals or you may wish to give people targets based on your understanding of their skills and performance in the past.

2. Cross-business collaboration versus cross-business competition. You may want to explore why you believe you should be collaborating with other teams in the business or why you should be competing internally with them.

3. Day-to-day constructive feedback versus end-of-year appraisals. You may wish to create a more open atmosphere and attitude towards 'live' performance management. You might want to create an atmosphere where it is acceptable to give practical and constructive feedback. The alternative is waiting for the end-of-year appraisal which is way too late to be useful.

I find that the concept of a leadership manifesto is very flexible and you can use it anyway that suits you. For example, you could with your team develop a change manifesto. Get the team to create their own manifesto for the way things work round here. Invite them to think about, if they were in charge, what would they change?

And finally, make sure that part of your Leadership Manifesto is about making it easy for others to make changes in their role. Give your team permission to change, too. That's part of your developmental role, which should also be in the Manifesto.

Having an open and understood Leadership Manifesto is all part of building your personal leadership brand. Your openness on what people can expect from you helps them to trust you more, so that when the going gets tough, they know they can rely on you to lead them well.
About the Author
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