AFTER 16 YEARS OF COACHING IN ROMANIA, I “see” that the subject of the leadership remains a difficult one. Of course, there are leadership books, our classical training systems on leadership have emerged, and the Romanian coaching business has evolved and it’s now seen as a reliable form of business interaction. But that’s still not enough.
For example, you can’t look for advice in about 50,000 existing books on leadership, because it’s hard to make choice and it’s hard to find that book that answers your question. How can one choose between top titles such as “The 21 Undisputed Ideas”, “Six Steps to Transforming Performance”, “Seven Key Principles for Effective Development” etc? Moreover, if you attend a minimum of 3-4 courses on this vast topic, it is almost impossible not to get confused.
Simple: because, apart from generally valid principles, most of the driving acts are completely context based. But, when we talk about this we have to be very careful not to find ourselves in the other extreme: excessive contextualization. Here, those who provide consulting and coaching services sometimes lose the principle of approaches, often falling into excessive over-contextualization. To approach an effective type of leadership we have to understand that there are three main topics that we have to change. We live in a period that challenges the rules of the game and leadership as we knew it is not good enough.
- PERSONAL MANAGEMENT
- CONVENTIONAL LEADERSHIP VS. PERMISSIVE LEADERSHIP
- WORKING WITH MILLENNIALS
1. PERSONAL MANAGEMENT
I’m going to start this article series with the Personal management section, which I think is the cornerstone for the other two. Given the fact that most of the leadership problems come from an unbalanced situation is very important to understand this concept and to manage to work ourselves out of this issue.
It wasn’t a shock to me reading the old papers about human psychology, and seeing that the reasons described there on the topic of why personal management fails are still valid today.
Taking this approach into consideration I’m going to structure the fundamental teachings of Buddha Sakhyamuni into six ideas that are constructed from opposite visions. My intention is to illustrate this set of principles so I can clarify and simplify the act of “self-leadership”. I found this approach relevant for every business leader that wants to grow and understand that a strong type of leadership comes from his own stability.
The first two factors (greed and hate) refer to the “desire” axis. We find here the classical situation: too much desire for something. People that found themselves in a leadership position always tend to see this power as a way of having everything that they wish for. Sometimes they forget that they are more in a guiding position and also a role model for other businessmen. In this situation, the leaders must understand that times have changed and nobody is willing to follow someone that is greedy and doesn’t show respect and consideration for others.
The next two are on the “energy” axis: inertia (too little energy) and agitation (too much energy). Burnout, exhaustion, and depression are classical examples of too little energy. These situations are very common among the leaders that understand leadership as something that they have to do all by themselves. They forget that their role is to manage teams. On the other hand, too much energy is just as damaging. A leader that is tireless and “all over the place” has the tendency to make everybody impatient. This type of behavior is also linked with the understanding that a leader has to do everything.
Obviously, the mood is more contagious than common flu. Leaders’ states are particularly infectious because people take their behavior as an example. Leaders who are lethargic or agitated will not be effective in their work nor attractive to people working with them.
The last two, insecurity and dogmatism, are on the “action” axis. Leaders with no confidence in themselves or in their actions don’t inspire confidence. If they want to maintain people’s trust they have to embody the clarity of purpose and the desire to adapt to new circumstances. Also, too much judgment can lead to an inflexible self-confidence and the perception that new ideas are dangerous and cause resistance.
When we talk about dogmatism, we have to take into consideration more subtle variations of the subject. The most common situation is when leaders become unconsciously dependent on a certain action plan and no longer respond to new information. In this urge of achieving, they tend to ignore the people around, seeing them as just numbers or elements in the process. In this scenario, employees ultimately give up, feeling that they have been used and disregarded.
These are the main factors that are influencing a non-efficient leadership. Of course, the simple way to avoid them is to resign now, join the Buddhist monks in isolation and leave the leadership behind. But a more plausible alternative would be to be more selfaware, to struggle with the difficulties of our human condition, to strive to find the middle ground among these six obstacles and to encourage yourself again and again as you progress.
HOW CAN YOU DO THAT?
The answer is very short: executive coaching. Finding the right coach who can understand your stress and your desire to implement a successful leadership model. With coaching, you can evolve into a strong leader that manages to control and leave the psychological deviations behind.
2. CONVENTIONAL LEADERSHIP VS. PERMISSIVE LEADERSHIP
When we talk about leadership performance, we often meet concepts that are no longer fit for the current situations. The problem is old, and I like to call it the “problem of success prescription”. Instead of taking a rule or advice and trying to adapt it to the circumstances, we prefer to follow the “if a wise man said” principle. What I mean is...
IT’S TIME TO LOOK FROM ANOTHER ANGLE AND MOVE FROM A CONVENTIONAL LEADERSHIP TO A PERMISSIVE ONE. IT’S TIME TO CHANGE.
Conventional leadership is the old way of understanding things. Leaders that don’t want to evolve professionally were raised with an old way of doing business and now they find it hard to adapt to the new generation. The problem is that this type of situation no longer fits the organizational scheme and does more harm than good. Instead, permissive leadership teaches us how we can coordinate our work in such a way as to achieve our goals effectively.
In the next paragraph, I’m going to use the predefined rules and mirror them to reflect on how leaders can change their vision of leadership.
1. CONVENTIONAL LEADERSHIP (C): Start by quantifying tasks and structuring them in a series of worksheets.
PERMISSIVE LEADERSHIP (P): Begin by understanding how the company operates, it’s dynamics, and how it can be tailored to a range of tasks.
2. (C): Believes that the leader must push the results, make measurements to accurately determine individual performance.
(P): Claims that it is more appropriate to get others to achieve results, transforming the attainment of goals into something they want.
3. (C): Considers that performance can be planned and controlled (through the “do-it-all-and-nothingfails” approach or rational approaches).
(P): Understands the complexity of social dynamics in the organization, and adapts to the form so it can get results.
4. (C): requires individuals to meet specific objectives and achieve predetermined results (based on planning that no longer fit in the current situation).
(P): Allows employees to work at their best level by letting them choose their goals and planning.
5. (C): requires the observance of rigid “performance management” processes and predefined procedures for employee role-setting.
(P): Encourages people to move to positions that are in line with their capabilities. These five rules of understanding business today is a key essential for leadership. Also, this type of behavior is linked to personal management. Shifting the perspective and realizing that your position as a leader is not about having all the power and doing all the things by yourself comes with realizing that you are an inspiration for the people around you and your job is to influence them into solving the problems. This way you help yourself and also help other people to evolve.
3. WORKING WITH MILLENNIALS
When I developed the 3 elements of effective leadership the last part was named People Management. But taking into consideration the fact that the workforce in Romania is currently formed 50% of millennials, and that they restructured the work process and changed the rules of the game, I decided that it was best to speak about how we can work with them.
The new generation made things difficult, stressful and even annoying for leaders who have another type of mentality and have inquired a pragmatic way of doing business. Therefore, I always hear leaders complaining about millennials and their vision, so I decided that is best to discuss their role in the effective leadership.
Do you know how to make the most of your potential and train them effectively?
Currently, six of my employees are millennials. Personally, I found it exciting and extremely difficult to work with these “creatures”. But I take everything as a challenge and I treat things in a very calm manner. Millennials have a great deal of humor, and they are able to get through the difficulties they face quickly. I will give you four key principles in my business practice and coaching programs to attract, lead and motivate millennials at work.
1. PROVIDE A CLEAR STRUCTURE AND MOTIVATE THEIR PRESENCE
Prioritizing days and weeks in advance is part of a leader’s routine, but this type of doing things is not embraced by millennials. Flexibility is part of their DNA and if they feel connected to a structure that does not allow them this, they will refuse any proposal and activity.
I know it sounds weird. We are accustomed, as an employer, to say, “These are the rules, if you don’t accept them, you can leave.” By setting this barrier you destroy any form of communication and any possible connection. It is also completely useless to impose this type of business thinking. You will not do anything well. On the contrary! They will leave the job and you will wake up endlessly employing young people who refuse this kind of obligation, or elders who will not have the same energy and motivation.
What can I advise you? Give them the flexibility they need, but establish healthy borders and provide a structure. Certain routines can be scheduled daily. Regular monthly and weekly meetings, with a clear agenda and goals, will help millennials reach their long-term goals and organize themselves. Explain, support and give them the chance to grow professionally.
2. CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEM TO GROW
Most millennials I’ve met are very self-confident and have an “I can, I want” thinking. That’s why they need a leader with coaching skills to inspire them, not a manager. For them is not enough to have an impressive job or a huge salary.
Their desire is to make a real contribution, to work on something significant because they identify with the work environment. Therefore, offer them projects that have an impact on the growth of the company, but at the same time extend them their current skills. Give them the opportunity to express their desire for professional development. Independent projects empower them and serve as an opportunity to combine their passion with learning.
3. ENCOURAGES “QUICK VICTORIES”
Each new mission, task, project is viewed with great interest at first. But if the goals are not attained in time and if they feel they are not winning anything they will quickly lose interest and enthusiasm. They may even feel depressed or have anxiety.
What I noticed at my team is that as we progress they are losing more and more interest in the project. Therefore, I recommend leaders to dedicate a few hours a week and/or a month for a common reflection on current projects, progress and new targets.
This simple exercise will keep the millennials anchored in the work they need to carry out. Also, this offers a clear evidence of each step in the process.
4. CREATE A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Millennials love flat hierarchies, honest feedback and like to have a transparent relationship with their managers. That is why it is advisable to devote time to review their progress and provide constructive feedback. Keep a sincere relationship and show interest in their way of working.
We and the Millennials
... two different generations, facing the same challenges but ending up by creating a distinct individual action plan to solve them. Use this difference to your advantage. This is a wake-up call for all leaders. Invest in millennials and give them the freedom they need. You will see surprising results especially in these structure of effective leadership that I exposed.
I think that we live in a fascinating time. Indeed the subject of leadership remains a difficult one, but now more then ever I see leaders wanting to change. The acceptance of coaching and the understanding fact that without help in our business problems we can fail, it’s a beautiful start.
Taking millennials into consideration, trying to adapt to their vision is also a step towards the evolution of leadership. I’m glad that I’m a part of this transformation, and I’m happy that I have been here from the beginning of the coaching industry in Romania, so I can see with my own eyes the evolution of leadership. Now, after 16 years, all I can wish for is to see more and more leaders willing to change.