Dynamic. Entertaining. Motivating. Creative. These are qualities we associate with an inspiring leader. But what if I told you that a low key introvert, who likes numbers and processes and policy, can also become an inspiring leader?
According to research conducted by Zenger Folkman, which focuses on strengths-based leadership development, just 12 percent of inspiring leaders possess a rah-rah style. But, at the same time, they have the ability to inspire people by the way they communicate, present their vision for the company and enable employees to contribute to the brand or organization in the best way possible.
Communication—and tone—is crucial. I was recently hired to work with a top executive who was upsetting his staff. His communication style was so direct that his emails often said: This is what I expect you to do and if you don’t do it you will be written up in the HR file. It caused a backlash. As a result, these educated, and successful financial professionals wanted him out of the organization and had the GM call me and ask for help.
When I met with this 50-year-old manager, he looked haggard and at his wit’s end. He was ready to give up due to all the backlash from his financial team. He had no idea why he was so distrusted and why everyone wanted to undermine his authority.
I heard his story and of his former success as a manager who was certified as a process coach at another organization. He had been successful at the previous company, but was shocked that his style didn’t translate to the new company. When I pointed out that he was not coaching per se but, rather, dictating to his employees I was able to see the problem.
He was hired to implement a new policy and went about executing the new policy by writing a new one. However, instead of getting to know his team members he instead pushed “the policy.”
I was able to help him understand that his lack of communication and understanding of the people around him was causing the frustration and said he had a choice: Start over with his team fresh or face continued scrutiny. He decided to be coachable, and start over.
Here was our renewed strategy:
- Apologize. Humbly, he called the key players into his office and apologized to each of them individually. He talked about being under intense pressure and how he went about implementing the new policy all wrong. He also asked for their help and to contribute their ideas about how they could make the new policy more effective.
- Demonstrate. This humbleness showed the team he was a good guy and his intentions were honorable. People were asked and agreed to give him a second chance.
- Empathize and visualize. He also had to intentionally forgive these people, who had tried to get him fired as a result of the chaos he created internally. We then created a new vision, in which the team would create new communications strategies.
The effort paid off. In just three months, this quiet and introverted leader, is having more fun and creating more dynamic change in the organization than has happened in many years previous.
By changing his communication to inspiring—instead of dictating—it fundamentally altered his team and how he and his employees relate to one another. His team is now performing at a higher level and people are happier at work.
Inspiring leaders come in many forms. Anyone can become one. Once senior executives realize they are leading people and not policy, they more easily can enroll people to work on implementing the new policy.
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