You've attended all of the lectures. You've read many of the books. You've accepted a smart approach to leadership and practice those skills routinely. But what about those times when a tried-and-true tactic doesn't work? What then? For some, there's a tendency to adopt a strategy that is wise and effective in almost every situation and then to use it in every situation. There are times when you have to abandon that approach to leadership, at least temporarily. Here are five examples.
1. Being transparent
Leadership experts often talk about how you should be transparent with your staff--share your challenges, be honest and open, don't strive for perfection. This makes sense, but not in every context. There's an old-school mentality that says you should play your cards close to your chest. The new school says lay the cards on the table. But when is that dangerous? There are times when being blunt and forthcoming with information is not wise, such as when you don't have anywhere near enough information. There are ways to share about challenges too often and in too much detail. There are times when what employees really need is some positive thinking, not a crushing reality.
2. Asking for feedback
It's a widely held view that managers should not only give feedback but also ask for it. This is the 360-rule so common in business. It's particularly important with Millennials, who want to feel like they're part of the process. However, there are times when it doesn't make sense to get feedback. If you are rolling out a marketing plan in time for a big milestone, you really need your staff to work hard and get it all done. It's OK to close the feedback loop temporarily. If you have asked for feedback repeatedly and have sought advice, then make a decision; it's OK to just push ahead with that plan. You don't want to solicit feedback in every incremental decision.
3. Leading by serving
Of course, it makes sense to be a servant-leader. It's smart to demonstrate the right attitude of serving, the "give them wings so they can fly" approach. Management is all about equipping and empowering, except when it is not about equipping and empowering. There may be times when you just need to speak up and direct a team, when you need to move from a support role in the backseat and take the steering wheel and just tell people what to do. Servant-leadership is 99 percent effective, but there are still those situations when you should stand up, point out the right direction, and motivate people.
4. Listening to your staff
Oh, I've been writing about listening in leadership for more than 14 years. Before that, I was a manager and director who practiced good listening habits for another 10 years. Too many people go to a meeting or prowl the company grounds looking for people to command. It's terrible. Except for those times when you just need to make those commands. Too often, the desire as a manager to be a good listener means people forget to actually manage once in a while. There are times when your staff just needs you to talk and not listen.
5. Empowering to action
I've used the word empowerment many times to describe good leadership. It's a strategy that means you look for the traits in employees that will help them exceed. You are an exposer of skill and ability, and an encourager of success and accomplishment. Except when you go too far. The leader who is constantly trying to empower others might forget that there are those times when you just need to do something yourself. You need to power, not empower. Maybe it's a tough business decision. You don't need to empower someone else, you just need to be the one who makes the decision. Maybe it's a confidence issue for you that you don't want to offend anyone or cause any conflict, but in reality you just need to act. Taking the reins of leadership sometimes makes the most sense.