The more I interact with people, the more I find that the most important tenant of leadership is influencing others. What does the word “influence” mean to you? Influencing others to do what you want for your personal benefit or the benefit of your organization is, in my opinion, selfish in nature. Influencing others to take actions, change behaviors, or change their focus for their own personal and professional growth epitomizes the unselfish leader.
Leaders influence outcomes. Whether we acknowledge it or not, when we move into a leadership position, we begin to look for ways to influence others. Over the years, here are four leadership types I have identified in myself and others.
1. Best Buddy
This kind of leader feels that if they are friendly with those around them, people will feel inclined to do what they ask. Initially, they become “Best Buddies.” However, when the same employees do not agree and oppose the leader, they feel betrayed and quickly change from friend to victim. They begin to view themselves as prey to others around them even in the lack of clear evidence. This behavior leads to a downward spiral.
2. Captain of the Ship
This type of leadership style occurs when the leader isolates themselves from everyone else around them. The “Captain of the Ship” will not allow themselves to become emotionally invested in anyone. Because of past hurts, they have placed a “force field” around their emotions and will not allow themselves ever to feel pain again. Often, this defensive attitude springs forth when the “Best Buddy” morphs a third time from friend to victim to “Captain of the Ship.”
Leaders in this category have progressed beyond the “Captain of the Ship” style of managing. They have convinced themselves that they are the very best at what they do. Therefore, people must do what the leader commands. They don’t believe in collaboration. They forbid creativity and imagination. It is their way or the proverbial highway. I know this leadership style very well because I led teams in this manner for many years. People that engage in this leadership style have convinced themselves that if everybody would just do what they are told, everything would be perfect. What happens, however, when people follow their instructions “to a T” and things still do not work out? Apparently, they left out a step because “The Dictator” couldn’t possibly be wrong. This type of leadership may be necessary during military combat. I struggle with finding a situation in civilian life where people need to be directed using this oppressive style.
The Interactive Leader is the culmination of the other leadership styles. Personally, I have progressed through each of the other types and to a position of humility. It is no longer about me or what I want. Rather, it’s all about the needs of those around me. By focusing my efforts on assisting, coaching, mentoring and listening, I put myself in a position to become a positive influence in other people’s lives. To serve others totally fulfills me as a leader.
Part II of “Leaders Influence Outcomes” details how to influence others positively.