Leadership is Like Ship Navigation
Written by Renée Safrata - firstname.lastname@example.org, July 12th, 2011
Has your manager ever given you a new project that was completely outside your area of expertise and you decided to tackle it anyway?
Leadership and followership are tough ships to navigate. Leaders need to acutely listen to their direct reports to diagnose properly if their follower is both motivated and competent to complete the task at hand. Followers needed to have the courage to ask for direction and support depending on their own assessment of whether or not they can push the task to completion.
Executive Lucie’s* manager, Dora*, decided to use a supportive leadership approach. Although her words were lovely to hear, they did not land on Lucie’s ears with their intended positive impact.
“As Dora started applying terms like ‘innovator’, ‘creator’, ‘leading edge’ and ‘tech guru’ to me, I got scared and became hesitant about my suggestions and ideas. Before this project, I felt my ideas were just ideas – some good, some bad, some risky, some silly. Suddenly, I’m holding back, because I felt that all my ideas need to AWESOME and what if they’re not?”
It’s really important as leaders, that we make sure we don’t say what we want our direct reports to hear, but rather we listen to what they need more acutely. I truly hope Dora gives Lucie more direction next time, as with direction, Lucie will fly through this task! As her self-confidence increases, so will her ability to complete new projects in the future increase.
If you’ve ever been in a situation like Lucie and Dora’s, how did your manager interact with you during this process? Did they use a supportive leadership approach and convey to you that they were confident you could create a leading edge solution? Or did they use a directive leadership approach and give you some ideas of how to get the project started and some possible directions to head? Which leadership style did you need from them more?
* Names have been changed.