Being a leader is not easy. Many people think that they know what it means to be a leader. But in reality, leadership has to juggle a huge range of responsibilities and draw on a vast range of skills to do the job well. That doesn’t mean that we should have to put up with bad leadership. In organisations with a lack of support and training, all too often bad habits go unchallenged.
At TCM, we often come across these five problematic behaviours in the workplace.
Otherwise known as “Let’s ignore it and hope it goes away”. This type of leader is aware that there may be conflict and tension within their team but is unable to deal with it. They lack the courage or the competence (or perhaps both) to address tough issues at work. They hope that the parties involved will sort it out themselves. They won’t. This is the kind of office environment in which tension hangs heavy in the air. Resentment weaves itself into the fabric of the team and it is blindingly obvious to outsiders, that there are serious problems not being addressed. Dysfunction, distress discord, disagreement and division are the possible outcomes for the poor ostrich.
The Judge has all the answers and can solve all the problems. The judge doesn’t need to involve any of the parties to reach a conclusion or come up with any plan of action. This type of leader treats conflict management as an arbitration or litigation process: identifying who is in the wrong and who is in the right. Team members are often left feeling disengaged and dis-empowered. Judges might get it right but they often get it wrong too. The judge leader regularly refer to the times that they got it right to support their approach and to avoid change.
While the nurse is concerned about everyone and wants to make things better when there is a problem, they are only able to apply a bandage. Any deeper wounds below the surface tend to be overlooked. The approach may well make things better in the short term, but will not improve things in the long term, and is likely to lead to frustration for those who feel the wider issues are not being addressed.
This leader believes that attack is the best form of defense. Strike once and strike hard. Punish and be seen to punish. The soldier puts primary importance on tough and aggressive communication styles. Show them who is boss, “You know where you stand with me!”. Soldiers may create collateral damage, which in an office context means people are likely to feel scared, worried and even upset. The soldier doesn’t pay much consideration to these. The damage can takes its toll on the soldier leader and they often become ill as a result, mentally and physically.
The ventriloquist leader is keen to get a problem sorted out without getting involved directly. They don’t like getting their hands dirty. Instead, they get other people to address the issue for them. Although this is often sold as ‘delegation’, in reality it is simply avoiding taking appropriate responsibility. This approach can be frustrating both for the parties who have the problem and the people who are tasked with trying to sort out an issue, which is not really within their area of responsibility.
It goes without saying that none of these approaches are very effective in the long term. At TCM, all too often we are brought into organisations when conflict has been ineffectively handled and negative behaviours are becoming a serious problem. It is vital to train and support leaders to carry out the essential skills needed to prevent the above leadership styles emerging and to allow creativity and innovation to flourish.
The modern office is no place for an ostrich, or indeed any of these undesirable characters.
What do you think?
Have you observed any other leadership behaviours? Have you ever been affected by one of these leadership styles? What is your organisation doing to create the kind of assertive, confident, supportive and empathetic leaders that we need to address tough workplace issues?