There are two types of leaders. People who lead by telling others what to do (directive style), or people who lead by listening and collaborating (collaborative style).
A directive style leader surrounds themselves with “yes” people; people who suck up to them and agree with them on everything, making the leader believe they are always right and everyone who does not agree is wrong, or stupid. This style of leader says, “I have the answers, just follow me and do what I say”. Remember the joke that goes “If I want your opinion, I will give it to you”?
As long as there are enough people that are willing to follow this kind of leadership, this can be sustained for some time, but will ultimately do a lot of long-term damage to personal and professional relationships, organizations, and cultures. This type of leader tends to “burn a lot of bridges.”
Having said that, some measure of directive leadership can be quite effective, if used positively to help someone learn a skill that is required for their job, for example. The leader can simply show or tell the person what to do, coach the skill, and allow time for practice and refinement of the skill until proficiency is reached. We have to be careful though; if all we ever do is teach a person a particular skill or routine, he or she will never develop the confidence needed to think for themselves and make good decisions in more difficult situations. As a result, that person’s interactions with others will be less fulfilling, and positive outcomes will be harder to obtain.
In order to sustain a positive culture and to nurture our relationships with other people, we need to bring a more supportive style of Leadership to the table. This is more about helping other folks to find their own solutions to problems, so they can grow from the learning experience. It is also about encouragement. Telling people “you can do it” to inspire their confidence, and saying “thanks” and “nice job” when they do good things; and it is about challenging people to stretch outside their comfort zone to get better.
The truth is the world is full of leaders. Each and every person has a choice to be present for, and support his or her fellow human. Each one of us has the ability to work alongside others to help find solutions to problems. Everybody can choose to encourage others to work hard, try hard, and be their best. We can all take a moment to express appreciation to another person for their efforts. All of us can have the courage to recognize when we need help and ask for it. All people can try new things, knowing that they will sometimes fail, but pick themselves up and learn from failure to become just a bit better next time.
What kind of leader are you? It is worth thinking about. I’d love to hear your thoughts and start the conversation.