When To Change How You Lead

You’re passionate about your business, have been involved in everything and are thriving on being able to make things happen. Growth means you now have far more to deliver, more customers to satisfy and need more people to make it happen.

Is it becoming more difficult to juggle all the plates? Have you dropped a few in your attempt to be the chief juggler? Sound familiar?

Time for change

As Founder or CEO you will have focussed on achievement, results, providing inspiration and setting out a vision but having been there from the start you will also know the ins and outs of your business and you will naturally be involved in, or, drawn to the detail.
With your head in the detail how will you see the bigger picture? How will you pick up what’s happening in your industry, the trends and innovations? Who spotted the clock ticking for retailers on the high street and who exploited the opportunity, think House of Fraser & Boohoo.
There naturally comes a point where you can’t be involved in everything and the need to delegate and manage others to do becomes more and more necessary. One model by Greiner, which highlights the stages of business growth, warns leaders to be careful to avoid some crises along the way.

A Crisis in Leadership, quickly followed by a Crisis in Autonomy!

These come about as the business grows and you can no longer juggle all the plates. However, your emerging management team can help you avert these crises. By developing their capability and expertise or by introducing an expert means you will no longer need to have all the answers, can share the pains of growth and perhaps focus on what you really enjoy (which, coincidentally, is probably what you are also very good at!)
Watch out for the next crisis – a Crisis of Autonomy. Your team will need autonomy to do their work. Listen to them, be willing to question and challenge but then trust them to act.
In the words of Steve Jobs – “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

No one style makes a great leader

Great leaders know ‘which club to take out the golf bag for which shot.‘
You can develop smart people by choosing different styles depending on the situation and their level of knowledge or experience.
Let’s say you’re an expert in product development and you need to develop that talent in someone else. They don’t know what they don’t know so this calls for a Directive style, providing specific instructions to grow their skills.
What happens if you continue to direct as they become more competent? It’s likely they will find it stifling and demotivating. You then need to switch to a Supportive or Coaching Style, enabling them to be self-sufficient and setting them up for success without your ongoing intervention.

‘You can’t teach people to trust – it’s a feeling’ – Simon Sinek

The spin off of building capability and relinquishing control builds trust. McKinsey found that four behaviours account for 89% of leadership effectiveness and being supportive is top of the list.
Supporting others, by being authentic and showing a sincere interest in those around you builds trust and inspires people to overcome challenges and find their own solutions, a rewarding experience for both parties!
If the time has come to change how you lead perhaps the greatest challenge will be a change in ‘mindset.’ You are going to have to break some long-established ways of working. We are habitual animals so changing how we work is difficult. Talk to others who have been on your journey. Perhaps identify others who can provide an external perspective and be that critical friend, but remember…

Be the change you want to see in your world.