As a leader, you're forced to play multiple roles within your teams and your organization as whole. No matter the size of a business, the services it provides, or the growth it's experiencing, the drive behind it comes from leadership. And because of the nature of how businesses are most effectively run, a leader is judged on their ability to maximize the potential and performance of his people in order to create value. Really good companies create value across the board--for the customer, for stakeholders and investors, for employees and for the bottom line.

So if leaders need to influence employees and team members, the same kind of mentality and approach isn't going to work in every situation. There's too much going on to have just one go-to style.

I think of one of our larger clients, one of the world's top memory chip makers, because the company embodies the incredible amount of change that is part of the business environment. A Senior Leader there told me that their technology must be completely revamped every nine months simply to stay on pace with the competition and the demands of the industry. Think about what that means for their CEO or their leaders. How would you motivate your employees and teams to produce, shift, pivot and rethink processes so rapidly? How do you create focus in the midst of such massive changes?

Leaders wear many hats in their work, but there are four critical roles that every leader must be aware of and know how to play. Why four? Well, our research has pointed that people think in four different ways. Each of these thinking attributes delve into how people look at their work and the world. How they process information. Where they get energy from. How they develop ideas and execute tasks.

Let me be clear...these are not standalone attributes. Each and every one of uses all four thinking attributes; however, we all have preferences for one or more. We have our go-to ways of thinking.

What that means for leaders though, is that the people they're needing to influence and inspire are going to look at their work and be motivated in distinctive ways. If you as a leader can master these four ways of thinking into the roles you play, you'll be assured of at least speaking the same language of your employees.

Let's take a look at this in action--here are four roles that every leader must understand and utilize in order to connect on a cognitive level and motivate their workforce.

The Analyzer: Leaders must know data and be confident enough to logically, rationally bring ideas to the table. In the role of the Analyzer, leaders must be able to play the skeptic and have a critical, strategic eye toward the future. Decisions need to be built from data and supported by bottom-line metrics. You need all of this rigor as a leader because when you're communicating massive changes or a new direction to your team, you better have the facts to back it up. The analytical brains in your company will ask the critical questions--as the Analyzer, you can match their inquiry with logic and provide the Why.

The Structuralizer: Leaders need to be straightforward and concise in order to put a plan in place that is clear and makes sense. In the role of Structuralizer, your job as a leader is to provide the framework and the process to take the company (or depending on the circumstances, your team or department) where it needs to go. The biggest complaint against leaders is lack of clear direction (only 14% of employees say they understand their company's strategy and direction!). Employees need to know that the leader has thought about what it is going to take to bring something through to fruition. You don't need to literally create every step along the way, but in the Structuralizer role you provide the guidelines to help your employees feel prepared. The Structuralizer provides the How.

The Socializer: Leaders have to ultimately connect and engage with their teams. Even the most quiet, introspective leaders have an ability to relate deeply with their people (well, good leaders have that ability...there's countless leaders who definitely do not). When you play the role of the Socializer, you're creating an atmosphere of mutual accountability and collaboration. In this role, the most important thing a leader can do is to be empathic. That starts with curiosity--ask your employees how they're feeling. Find out where changes need to happen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Your employees need to feel engaged with leadership and their colleagues, and as a Socializer, you set that tone. The Socializer understands Who is needed for success.

The Conceptualizer: This is the most traditional view of leadership, but in many ways the most difficult--it's about seeing where you need to go, setting the vision, and rallying the company around the future. Employees expect this kind of thinking from leaders, but it doesn't come naturally to many of us. The Conceptualizer's role is to ensure that people can step out of the day-to-day and understand that their work is critical and important to achieving the overall goal. Its playing the Steve Jobs role...where an iPhone isn't simply a telephone or a new product line, but an experiential tool that will alter the way the world gets information and communicates. In the role of Conceptualizer, leaders need to create a place of openness so that employees feel connected to the vision and able to bring their own ideas. The Conceptualizer shows where you need to go.

These roles are not mutually exclusive. As a leader you may need to play different roles with different audiences. And knowing how your behavior comes across and how you express, assert and provide direction is another matter entirely. But, if you can understand which roles you tend to play more and realize that at some point you'll need all four, you will be much more effective in your work.

Published on: Feb 13, 2015