10 Tests to Know it’s Time to Take Charge
One dimensional leaders fit into one dimensional organizations. Do one dimensional organizations actually exist? Complexity and diversity call for more than one leadership style.
You may be a coaching-style leader but coaching doesn’t always work. I enjoy a hands-off approach both as a leader and a follower. But hands-off isn’t always best; some situations call leaders to be hands-on participants. Successful leaders adapt their leadership-style to the situation.
For example, crisis demands hands-on directive leadership.
Ten tests to determine it’s time to take charge. Take charge when:
- Employees expect direction. This may not be the determining factor but it matters.
- Situations require direction. Beginnings require more direction than middles or endings.
- Tasks are once and done rather than frequently repeated.
- Situations are highly ambiguous.
- Uncertainty is high.
- Organizational structure calls for authority; formal authority is high.
- Team members lack skills, education, or experience and they need time to develop.
- Tasks are highly complex.
- Failure is high impact and public.
- Job satisfaction is a function of the group rather than centered within individuals. Military organizations generally illustrate a need for highly directive leadership styles where job satisfaction is closely tied to the group.
Effective leaders leverage more than one leadership style. Jim Quigly and Mehrdad Baghai list eight leader/follower styles in their book, “As One.” Here is a brief summary of their suggestions: “8 Leadership Archetypes.”
What’s your preferred leadership style?
How do you determine when to become highly directive?
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“Architect and builder” is my leadership style. I always challenges people to achieve difficult but possible goals. I show trust in their potentials that they have don’t believe in. Trust creation is the great and dynamic process. It takes time but when trust is build, people find their true purpose.
When people in the team become less self directed and responsible, then I determine to become highly directive. And when they become, self directed and responsible, they I leave them trusting that they will do better and higher than what they think.
In addition to the suggested points, I would like to add some more points- When people are fearful to take charge, then is the time to take charge. When owning responsibility is the issue, then leaders should take charge, When accusing, blaming and criticizing becomes norm, then leaders should take charge. When trust is low, then leaders should take charge.
I may be a blend of some of the archetypes but I think as a leader one of my core principles is making sure people “sign on” to the sense of purpose we all share to a cause. I think the challenge that presents to me as a supervisor is the employee who doesn’t care about the big picture, just wants to get their job done. I probably push a little too hard to get them to emote about our wonderful shared goals, which they may or may not embrace.
One situation that most calls for directive leadership is when group dynamics send an entire group on a tangent that takes over and diverts people from the primary purpose for which they are gathered. Those types of diversions can be very strong and it really takes some forceful communication (sometimes) to bring people back to the purpose at hand.
Crisis may be in the ‘I’ of the beholder…
As you noted Dan, early on, direction (and sometimes just initiation/pushing of dialogue with focus) is needed to get the ball rolling. (Hopefully prior to that, you all have agreed on where to roll the ball.)
Time sensitive or time constrained elements may require closer direction and resource (re)allocation. This can even drive into a perceived crisis realm if not monitored.
Makes the case for a thread on variation on the levels of sense of urgency. The leader’s sense of urgency may not be that of the person delivering the service. When in inharmonic incongruence, variability can (does) occur. 😉
As far as preferred leadership style–also variable. Keeping continuous learning as one of the mantras coupled with building up potential new leaders, tend to coach more than direct. Feels more longitudinal in benefit and best use of resources.
Doc, you make a great point regarding the potential differences in sense of urgency between leader and team member. If my Officer Evaluation Reports are to believed, one trait I had as a commander was calmness under pressure. The outcome: when frantic soldiers see calm at the top, it reassures and calms them. The opposite is also true.
Doc I pegged you as an Architect/Builder. I just loved your “Crisis may be the “I” of the beholder.” Very powerful statement and one to reflect on. How often do we forget to look inward where there are issues and problems. Very perceptive comment Doc, have my cerebrum spinning. 🙂
Dan, I love this post because I sometimes think we in the leadership community do the world a disservice by backing off from our authority. We do it because we don’t want to abuse it, but sometimes the best thing for everyone is to take charge and quickly drive the organization to the objective.
For me, that point sometimes comes when outside pressure and internal confusion coincide. Sometimes your team needs to pull off something it hasn’t done before, and the world isn’t willing to wait while you patiently teach. In those cases, leader, step up and do your job, and then use some sort of after-action review to teach.
My preferred leadership style (I didn’t really see a good match in the list) is what the Army called mission-type orders: Clearly specify the outcomes, but be hands-off on the process. This requires the boundaries to be clearly understood by all.
Greg very masterful statement “when outside pressure and internal confusion coincide.” Wow as Dan would say Kaching. You are clearly nail on. If a Leader does not take charge disaster may be the result. Thanks
Love that image Greg…’team needs to pull off something it hasn’t done before, and the world isn’t willing to wait’. That also is when it can be the most exhilarating and energizing. Being on the edge of that wave (or chaos) and carving through it well is living large! It stretches the team’s image of what can/cannot be done.
Hi Dan, fantastic post. I think I am definitely like Ajay in the Architect Builder pairing with some of the Captain and Sports Team as well. You have hit on all of the high points when it becomes necessary for leaders to take charge. I believe that the way, you actually proceed to take charge is almost more important than exercising the authority in time of need. That behavior is going to vary from situation to situation which is why I feel I need the double pairings mentioned. None of the other 6 archetypes suit me or at least I don’t think so. I have always felt that when we lose a team member for whatever reason that there is blame to go around but instead of pointing fingers it is more constructive to learn, grow and move on. I was recently asked by a department head how he could motivate and inspire some of the team members that just didn’t get it and are creating obstacles to the functionality of the team. I stressed communication, communication and them some more communication until he connects. That to me is the largest problem large organizations like ours have is keeping everybody up to speed and in synch with each other. Ultimately if we can’t inspire the vision,Mission and our values then it may be time to part ways. Unfortunately this distasteful job of deselection is one of those times when a leader definitely has to take charge and stop the “bleeding.” Fortunately if your culture is strong this is a rare occurrence. I was amazed when reading “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh that Zappo will give $3000 to a mistaken hire so they leave early in the probationary period. Their culture is so precious that they don’t want anyone messing with it. Now that is leadership commitment when a company puts their money where their mouth is and takes charge to preserve their vision/mission/ values. 🙂 Cheers
You bring up that ever challenging point, Al, of when an organization grows more than anticipated that it probably has not kept it’s communication processes aligned with the growth. Too busy growing, seizing opportunities. And before you know it, when someone leaves (needs to/chooses to) the gap is acutely felt. Communication may be the most gossamer-like connection.
Great point, Al, Even for team members who get it, constant communication is necessary in order for the vision/mission/values to stick. Leaders need to remember that we lead people, not organizations. That’s not natural for me — I can see people as interruptions, but I should be willing to listen any time they’re willing to talk (to be sure I understand) and talk anytime they’re willing to listen (to get the vision to stick).