For the purpose of this blog, I am going to dumb down everything written about management styles. I am no business school expert but after 20 years of looking at resumes and listening to candidates talk about leadership, I am “trending” towards reducing the business-speak hyperbole.
Leaders are either inspirational or controlling. The good leaders are inspirational, the bad leaders are controlling. Of course there are other styles.
With all due respect to the DiSC© profiling program that we use religiously in this Firm, and with profound respect for my colleague Nancy Swain, an outstanding behavior and values/outplacement coach, I selected those two words to zero in on a point: that far too many CEOs are more concerned about the metrics — controlling their workforce to ensure they make the bottom line to please their board or other executive keepers. The operative words here are more concerned.
For me, leadership is about balance, an appropriate blend of a good business model, a solid plan, and the combination of operational focus and performance accountability. After that is established, you can have an environment where your team is upbeat, confident and motivated to do the best they can do, or you can have a group of employees who look at their jobs and the work they do as a paycheck — a means to an end — who alternate between feeling secure and fearing for their lives (read: job security).
I visited a hospital earlier this year where the culture could best be described as bunker mentality on steroids. The hospital was doing well financially — not outstanding, but good — and the board was pleased. But underneath the veneer of success, there was big trouble brewing. The first hint was that the Chief Human Resource Officer was buried so far down in the organization — obviously not seen as a strategically important function within the organization — that he could not impact the culture or any other human capital issues. They saw him as a transactional necessity. In an industry, and at a time, when human capital plays such an important role in the success or failure of an organization, you have to wonder about this type of thinking when it comes to the strategic role the HR executive should play.
Inspirational leaders care deeply about their employees even if it is for purely economic reasons. Inspirational leaders realize that, to maximize the value of this capital investment, they need them to function at peak performance, not on a random here-and-there basis, but all the time. Commanding your employees might make them perform at a “B” level, but employees filled with the inspiration and passion to be the best they can be will not be satisfied until they know they are the best they can be. They are the “A” employees everyone covets. So, why would you want to pay for 100 percent and only receive 60 to 70 percent of their energy, passion and results?
As I visit with hospital CEOs around the country, and as I talk with candidates, I am trending to believe that leaders who only focus on control and the results those controls produce will not achieve the best their employees have to offer.
That, of course, assumes the organization has hired the right people and that, I am certain, could be an even bigger problem.