At the end of a presentation last week, someone asked me what type of leadership model I suggest. And my goodness there are so many “kinds” of leadership.
- Transactional Leadership
- Transformational Leadership
- Servant Leadership
- Charismatic Leadership
- Authoritative Leadership
- Laissez-Faire Leadership
- and so on…
My response is simply, there are pros and cons to all models and there is no one right or wrong model. In fact, think of them all as just that – a model. Something used as an example and not a static discipline.
I could argue that the greatest attribute a successful leader or business owner can model is to be curious.
As a curious leader you ask questions (of yourself, of your people, of situations). Asking questions opens your mind to possibilities, opportunities, and avoids assumption. And assumptions can lead us to focus on the wrong thing, try something that won’t really work, or place blame where it does not belong.
Here’s what it could look like. As a curious leader…
- You can imagine the possibility that delegation could actually work out well, so you put trust in your teams and they trust you in return.
- Because there is mutual trust, communication lines are more open which results in improved accountability and less surprises (the bad kind).
- And when your teams feel safe to report errors or offer ideas, you get to leverage collective intelligence and scale faster (rather than being the only one to come up with ideas and solutions).
- This fosters innovation and therefore increases the speed of execution toward your goals (which are now collective goals rather something that only lives at the top).
- And when your people feel purposeful, trusted, and respected, they choose to stick around and you see greater employee retention.
- And because employees choose to stay you can have a longer-term influence on shaping them into high-performing teams that grow with you.
Being curious can also look like compassion.
It’s you recognizing and being open (curious) to the human experience of yourself and those around you. It recognizes that nothing and no-one operates in a vacuum.
Here’s an important differentiation between compassion and empathy. Empathy is being able to relate to the feelings or emotions of another person, which offers a lot of support but can be very hard for many people (which is totally ok). Whereas compassion is a display of respect and caring through an intent to help (taking action).
- Empathy is, “I understand how you feel, and can join you in how difficult this is. You are not alone.”
- Compassion is, “I can see this is difficult for you, and I care about that, and I would like to make it better.”
Both of these make people feel seen, heard, and valued. Both are beneficial.
But look at it like this…
I cannot empathize with a colleague who has a sick child at home on top of their already busy day, because I am not yet a parent. And while joining them in that feeling would help in the moment, it would not make the situation objectively better. But I can be compassionate about their situation and offer to take something off their plate in order to free up their time.
So, if I had to pick a label for a model of leadership, I would say to lead with curiosity and compassion. Scale and grow your organization faster and easier by understanding the “why” behind the things and people around you, so you can take action forward and uncover underlying truths. The truths that may be inconvenient and uncomfortable, are indisputable, and always solvable.
> Do you see what I did there? Hint: these are the elephants in your boardroom <