How to be the best leader for your team

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A leader is a dealer in hope.

Napoleon Bonaparte

*Name has been changed

I spoke with a young man the other day who recently began working for a new company. Noah* had seven years of work experience in sales and a good track record. The manager positioned Noah in an office next to his and listened to how Noah made calls throughout the day.

After each call, the manager told Noah what he didn’t like and continually criticized and belittled this new employee. At the end of the day, Noah quit. This company lost an excellent employee because the manager was not a leader; he was just a boss. 

What millennials want

The world today is volatile. Anxiety has become a chronic problem among young people. Millennials are often criticized as being lazy or self-absorbed. The truth is they want to make a difference, but they are not the same as the previous generation. 

The previous generation enjoyed the luxury of job security. But many of these millennials have seen their parents thrown under the bus in the 2008 downturn and as a result, it has left an indelible mark that companies cannot be trusted. Couple that with the fact that many industries and companies are downsizing to adapt to a new digital world, and it’s easy to see why millennials and Gen Z are skeptical about the working world. 

That does not mean that millennials don’t want to work, they have just had their ability to trust eroded. They want to make a difference. They are driven by purpose and they want a place to grow and have a future. I have seen millennials take jobs that pay less if it helps them get to where they want to go. What they really want is someone who will mentor them.

Boss versus leader

The manager I mention in my introduction demonstrated the characteristics of a Boss. A Boss creates fear, fixes blame, knows it all, continually criticizes, tears down others to build themselves up and makes work drudgery for the team. 

In contrast, a Leader creates confidence in the team, corrects mistakes, asks questions, makes work enjoyable, leads and inspires, motivates, mentors and acts as a guiding force.

Leadership styles

There are many different types of leadership styles. The question is, which leadership style is best for creating a culture of innovation? Let’s review a few.

The Autocratic Leader: This type of leader keeps all decision-making power for himself and does not allow people to question their decisions or authority. This kind of leadership style is often abused, yet it can be a critical leadership style in a time of crisis. 

The Consultative Leader: This type of leader asks for input from subordinates regularly, then makes a decision. However, they do not try to facilitate consensus. This type of leader recognizes the values of others but also knows the importance of time and provides a team with quick but thorough decision-making.

The Democratic/Participative Leader: This type of leader facilitates a group to come to a consensus. They encourage creativity, and team members tend to have high job satisfaction because they have a role in decision-making. Teams feel in control of their roles and tasks. The Participative leadership style, however, can make for a slow decision-making process.

The Servant Leader: The term servant leader was coined by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s. It differs from other leadership styles in that it focuses on meeting the needs of a team to accomplish their goals. In many ways, it is a form of participative leadership; however, a Servant Leader knows when to be autocratic or consultative if it meets the needs of the team. The reason for choosing to be autocratic is not driven by a need to control, but by the needs of the group. 

A Servant Leader “leads from behind,” preferring to stay out of the limelight and let their team accept recognition for their hard work. A Servant Leader works well in an environment where accomplishing values, ideals and ethics are essential to the company. As a result, it creates a very positive culture and can lead to high morale among team members.

Millennials and Gen Z thrive well in this leadership style because they are committed to changing the status quo.

Developing a Servant Leadership style is not a simple matter. Peter G. Northouse’s book, Leadership:  Theory and Practice, contains an excellent Servant Leadership assessment. You can even access that assessment online

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