Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do Leaders Push or Pull?

If you are in the position of leading people; anybody - it's probably because you know what you're doing at a fundamental level, and you bring an "A" effort to the table on a consistent, if not a constant, basis.

Inevitably, every leader asks, "how do I get more from my team?", which is inevitably met with trial and error.

Being everyone's friend: morale is usually high, but productivity & profitability often plummet as your personal stress levels skyrocket

Doing everything yourself: leads to rapid results for many things, but then quickly juggling too much, a productivity log jam, and again, personal insanity; not to mention you can never replace yourself- if you're not there the place falls apart.

Paying huge wages: improves morale and may help you delegate a tremendous workload, but bankrupts most companies, especially in a down or highly competitive economy.

So what management style works the best? I'm not naive enough to write one answer. In my humble opinion, it's one part clear expectations, one part incentivization (not just compensation amount, but tying the compensation structure to the right results), one part support, one part accountability, one part creativity/ flexibility, one part each hard work and smart work.

On the hard work side - working hard enough to set the tone for others, but also demanding the same in return. This is where the push or pull question comes in. SMART hard work = pushing others at a reasonable rate that ensures continuity and progress, plus time to pull in for the occasional pit stop. You are behind your team SUPPORTING them, but holding them accountable.

Pulling means you sprint at your pace, loom back and wonder why everyone is miles behind, and yell "catch up"; which inevitably means running back to get your team and starting to spring again.

Pushing a heavy object; no different than pushing a large team - involves a period of slow inertia (policy/ value/ vision implementation) but if the effort is consistent enough & has great rhythm, pretty soon inertia becomes momentum and the heavy object begins to move with speed - and you have a team of people conditioned to sprint because they put in the time to crawl, walk, and run first.

My money is on "push" leadership.

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