Leadership Skills: Changing Ineffective Styles

a In order to foster strong leadership skills you may need to take a look at what not to do. I recently read an article by Larry Alton on“Five Leadership Styles That Have Never Worked for Anyone” ** In it he identifies the following styles:

  1. Micromanager
  2. Absolute Rule
  3. Anything Goes
  4. Complete Self Reliance
  5. Excessive Consistency

In my years of coaching and helping people develop strong leadership skills I have discovered to improve or break free of one or more of these styles a leader must be willing to look inward and discover what is driving their use of the ineffective style. So how do you get a leader to change an ineffective style to an effective style? Here are three things you need to gain a deeper understanding of in order to facilitate that shift.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Develop Strong Leadership Skills:

  1. What is the goal of the behavior?
  2. What is the core belief that drives the behavior?
  3. How is subconscious system influencing the behavior?

Leadership Skills: Are You The Micromanager?

The Micromanager is driven behaviorally to try and monitor all things. The goal is to maintain control. This comes from a core belief that states, “I must be in control at all times or something bad could happen.”

The easiest way to identify a core belief is to look at the opposite of the outward behavior that is being exhibited. For example, a person who needs to be in control has a fear of losing control at some level.

Problems arise when this core belief is operating in the background and the person does not know it is back there. This is the subconscious brain at work.

This hidden belief triggers the subconscious brain to send out a signal that something is not okay. This signal is received in the body in the form of the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. In an attempt to alleviate these feelings a leader will become overly involved and micromanage a team.

Although this behavior might temporally alleviate the leader’s feelings of anxiety and discomfort, it serves to alienate and frustrate team members. Thus perpetuating a cycle; as the team members become disgruntled they lose focus which increases mistakes, this in turn reinforces the leader’s belief that they have to stay involved or mistakes will be made and bad things will happen.

To disrupt this cycle I teach leaders about the parts of their brain that are sending off these signals and how to better manage their brains in order to choose more effective leadership behaviors.

One technique is to have them conduct an interview with themselves. Some good question include,

“What bad thing will happen if a mistake is missed? How can I handle that situation? What team members can help me solve this problem?”

By helping the brain understand that there are options past the point of making a mistake, old patterns of thinking are disrupted and new ones are created.

Leadership Skills: Are You the Absolute Ruler?

The Absolute Ruler is driven to maintain their power and position. The core belief that lies behind this behavior is, “I need others to see my power and respect me. I cannot appear vulnerable or uncertain.”

The individual who acts in this manner is driven by a core sense of powerlessness, so the goal is to gain or maintain power in order to minimize feelings of vulnerability. People that feel powerless inwardly, compensate for this feeling by trying to show power outwardly. They often do this by becoming “little dictators” and using their positions to attack or minimize team members.

This behavior ultimately breeds a climate of fear and invulnerability leading to limited explorations of ideas and ultimately limiting the growth of the organization itself.

When I coach individuals that fall into this pattern I often find that their primary need is to be respected and seen as an expert in what they do, but they often feel they are not as smart and/or as talented as other members of their team.

Therefore a belief exists at some deep level that they do not deserve to be in a role of authority and yet they are in a role of authority.

This presents a conflict for the subconscious brain. As the friction of these two core beliefs go up against one another there is an escalation of anxiety and tension within the individual. This leads to more destructive patterns of behavior as the leader attempts to prove to himself and his team members that he deserves to be in the lead role.

This can be a challenging belief to redirect. To start, recognize that judging an individual’s value as compared to others on a team creates and perpetuates feelings of vulnerability. Minimize the vulnerability by noting the leader’s talents and recognizing that multiple talents are needed to run a successful organization.

Leadership Skills: Are You an Anything Goes Leader?

The Anything Goes leader is the driven to seek approval. The hidden core belief that lies behind this behavior states, “I need others to like me to feel okay. I’m not okay when I sense the disapproval of others.”

The person that is overly flexible in their leadership style wants to be perceived as nice. The need here is to avoid conflict. This individual does not feel comfortable telling another person what to do, especially when he see that the other person does not like or agree with her decision.

When an individual who has this core belief experiences disapproval from others, the subconscious part of the brain sends a signal to the fight, flight, and freeze system of the brain. The Anything Goes leader has a freeze reaction; she makes no decision that could lead to potential conflict. She either lets people do whatever they want, or says ‘yes’ to everything in order to not be seen as the “bad guy”.

I have personal experience with this leadership style. My first job out of college I worked for a leader that said yes to every request and chaos was the result. No one knew what direction we were headed.

The irony of course is that everyone ends up disapproving of this leader in the long run.

To correct this core belief a leader needs to be conscious of separating the organizational goals from their personal goals. To do this a leader can ask them self a couple of clarifying questions;

Leadership Skills Development:

–       Are my actions in alignment with the goals and needs of the organization?

–       Are my actions more in alignment with my need to avoid conflict and disapproval? Leadership is a tough role. I have a lot of compassion and respect for those who do it because in the end you will never please everyone, but you have to be strong enough in yourself to stay clear and present with what you belief is right for the organization and not allow the disapproval of others to cause you to lose sight of that goal.

Leadership Skills: Are You a Complete Self Reliance  Leader?

The goal of the Self Reliant leader is to minimize vulnerability. The hidden core belief that lies behind this behavior states, “I can’t trust others. Others might do things that could create big problems for me, so therefore I will do it all myself.”

This is similar to the control issue seen in the Micromanager but with a slightly different angle.

The subconscious trigger here is; I can’t trust others to make good decisions; which is really saying, I don’t trust myself to make good decisions.

The subconscious systems background voice can sound like, “What if I delegate this project to them and they do it wrong? What does that say about me as their leader?

In the attempt to minimize feeling vulnerable this individual will decide the safest and most effective way to get the job done is to do it themselves. Of course this results in burn out and exhaustion.

I teach clients that self trust is like a muscle; the more it is worked the stronger it becomes. A muscle that is not used will atrophy and become weak, creating vulnerability.

The process of developing self trust involves stepping outside comfort zones and becoming vulnerable on purpose. Only in this process will the brain and body become stronger and learn deeper self trust.

Learning how to delegate is a great way to practice building self trust!

Leadership Skills: Are You a Leader with Excessive Consistency

The goal of the Excessively Consistent leader is to minimize losses by setting hard and inflexible boundaries. The hidden core belief that lies behind this behavior states, “I must have consistency and control or others will take advantage of me and I will lose.”

This inflexible leader holds a win/lose paradigm, “If I give a little, they will take it all.”

The Excessively Consistent leader is actually on the opposite end of the spectrum of the Anything Goes leader.

Whereas the Excessively Consistent leader finds considering individual needs stressful; the Anything Goes leader is stressed by not meeting everyone’s needs.

The Excessively Consistent leader tries to use rules to create boundaries and insult themselves from others taking advantage of a situation. On a subconscious level a fear exists that if I meet others needs, I will not get my needs or the organizations needs met.

Therefore this leader will often try a one rule fits all situations type of approach.

For example, I worked with a strict father of some teenage girls. The girls asked if he would be more flexible with their curfew for a special event. He responded that they knew the rule, and there were no expectations. The girls in turn went on an expensive shopping trip. He felt taking advantage of and was upset that they had done this to get back at him.

His need in this situation was to keep his children safe. Their need was to have a little more freedom for one night. Because he holds a win/lose paradigm on the subconscious level there is a hidden belief if I meet my children’s needs, my needs will not be meet.

In the end he kept them safe; a win in his mind, but he lost out in both the money department and the relationship department. It is interesting how things back fire when there is incongruency in harmonizing the needs of all parties concerned.

Ultimately the inflexible leader needs assistance seeing beyond a win/lose paradigm and developing greater awareness of how to honor both individual and organizational needs and goals.

There is no magic button that can switch an ineffective leadership style over to an effective style. However, when leaders develop a greater understanding of what drives their behavior and why they feel the way they feel, they are able to move past self judgment and into greater self awareness. From that vantage point many shifts are possible!

**“Five Leadership Styles That Have Never Worked for Anyone” by Larry Alton*http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244065

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