React or Reflect

I have been observing behavior patterns in leaders that I am around. Here is one observation:

Some leaders react to a situation, and others project the behavior that they want into the situation, so that others can reflect it back.

Sometimes this is positional. Leaders behave differently depending on the amount of automomy, or authority they have over the situation. So when leading from a position of authority they might react less, because they have the ability to directly impose change on the situation. The same leader, in a position of influence might react more, in order to generate a sense of urgency, because they have less authority. This behavior pattern may backfire, because it appears to others to be an attempt at overt maniipulation and reduces the leader’s influence, rather the opposite of the desired result.

Other leaders when starting from a position of authority react harshly, exerting control early rather than observing calmly and exerting the least control necessary to ensure success, they may yank control away from subordinates and cause them to lose confidence. They may appear successful because they have exerted direct control, and made short term improvements, but almost always at the expense of the team’s power, and ultimately making the team dependent on their control.

Still other leaders project or model the behavior that they want the team to exhibit, and allow the team to reflect this back. This leader whether in authority or not, simply models the desired behavior for the team, and executes his responsibility with integrity, allowing the team to “get the message”. Rather than reacting to difficulty, they can then report the difficulty to the team, and ask them how they intend to overcome it.

This third leadership style is the most rare, and maybe the most difficult, but probably the most successful long term. It is a style that managers, peer leaders, coaches and rising stars can appropriate. It is the style that allows the team to remain responsible for the solutions, and the leader to both take credit for the teams success, and to give credit to the team.

It is this style that I aspire to emulate.

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