Leadership Styles – Moving a Team Forward
Business consultant, author and speaker, Jim Collins, wrote the book on how good companies become great companies. Becoming a level five leader assures long term growth for an organization according to Collins’ research.
In his book Good to Great, Collins says the best way to succeed is to, “Get the right people on the bus and in the right seat.” If you have ever formed a successful team then you know this is true. If you have ever formed a dysfunctional team, then you just learned what went wrong.
In a previous post on leadership styles, I discussed a term I referred to as the leadership mash-up. The leadership mash-up recognizes that there are many leadership styles. The leadership mash-up often draws from the various leader styles to arrive at the right style for the given situation. Since the leaders style may have a little of this and some of that, it becomes a leadership mash-up.
Present leadership style mash-ups rely heavily on the Democratic Leadership Style. This leadership style allows the team members to participate in decisions and goal setting.
In a recent discussion with a team leader about participation, there was an air of frustration that the leader’s team could not reach agreement quickly. There were also times the team would reach agreement only to have descending member at the last moment. Then there were times when the team could not agree at all and the conversations would become endless or pointless.
So what happens when you have the right people on the bus, but they can’t agree on where to go when given the opportunity to have input?
First, let’s get off the bus and head to a vehicle each of us has more experience driving: a car.
Going for a Car Ride
The average car holds four passengers. As the courteous driver getting ready to take a ride, you might seek input from your passengers. You might ask questions like:
- Where would you like to go?
- Which route would you like to take?
- Where would you like to stop along the way?
If you have agreement among your passengers, then off you go. It should be a smooth trip and you should reach your destination with a car full of happy passengers. But not all car trips go as smoothly.
There are times when the passengers can’t agree on which route to take, where to stop along the way or even what the destination will be. Does this usually result in the car not moving at all? Typically not.
When the passengers of the car cannot come to an agreement, then the decision goes to the driver. The driver has the keys. The driver supplies the fuel. The driver has the steering wheel and ultimately decides on the direction the car will take even if the passengers cannot come to a joint decision. The car begins to move whether or not the passengers agree on where it is going, how it will get there and how slow or fast the car will travel.
Be Prepared to Decide
When the Democratic Leadership Style is in play, the leader has to be prepared to decide the direction when agreement is not possible. Like the driver of the car mentioned above, the leader must put the key in the ignition, put the car transmission into drive, press on the gas and steer the car.
When a team cannot reach a conclusive decision, the leader has to tactfully thank the team for their input and make a decision. Unfortunately the team cannot always achieve an efficient decision and the leader is then called upon to lead by making a decision and moving forward.
Leaders that are unable to recognize when the time has come to make a decision just might drive their car in circles with the team along for the ride. The only thing that comes of that is a car full of tired, motion sick passengers who are unhappy. The trip becomes pointless and no destination is reached.
Make a Decision and Step on the Gas
As the leader, be willing to seek input. When a decision cannot be reached by your team, be willing to affirm and support the team while making a decision and moving on.
The success of the team lies with the leader. Do you want a team that knows the destination and how the team will arrive there or do you want a bunch of people just waiting for the trip to end (or even begin) so they can get out of the car?
It is great to have a leadership style that includes Democracy. Just don’t forget where the buck stops. When discourse fails; decide.
Join the discussion in the comments section below. Have you ever been on a car ride to nowhere with a team you were a member? How did the inability for the leader to make a decision feel to you? What did it do to the team?
Al Getler is a newspaper, website, book and magazine publisher. He is also a comedian/ventriloquist and a speaker on leadership, customer service and personal branding.