A good leader must learn how to achieve balance in leadership. Generally, there are two types of activities innate to the role of a leader: flexible or “asking” activities and sharp or “telling” activities. Asking activities encompass all kinds of exercises that leaders must execute to learn more about their colleagues’ needs and frustrations. These can include:
- Empathic listening
- Open-ended questioning
- Asking what their colleagues would propose to solve a task
Regarding the other kind of activities, the telling activities, there isn’t much more beyond that of Communicating Decisions/Goals /Information. Luís Martins Simões suggests that a people manager/team leader should spend 90% to 95% of their time in asking activities and the remainder on telling activities. Not just because of how little there is to Communicating Information, but also because the leader’s authority and prowess are judged based on their asking activities. This means that colleagues will only feel empowered and motivated by a leader who is capable of assessing their capabilities/needs/frustrations and manage them in a productive manner.
Finding this balance, however, is not an easy task. There are examples of leaders who commit 100% of their time to “telling” activities, resulting in them being feared by their teams. These leaders come off as despotic and inflexible, who view their colleagues like resources or tools that don’t factor in the decision-making process. Conversely, there are managers who are not comfortable in making decisions, which reflects poorly on their leadership because they leave the team aimless and directionless.
The solution of finding the right balance in these leadership activities is in encouraging a confrontational culturewithin a team. This means that the habit of confronting your leader and having no reservation in giving feedback should be commonplace among your colleagues. This ensures that the leader is always informed about their performance and whether they are focusing too much on one kind of activity and not enough on the other.
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