MIAMI, FL / ACCESSWIRE / September 9, 2021 / Leading a team or organization is often described as wearing many different hats. While leaders should be compassionate, they can rightly expect a level of accountability; while they must allow for creativity and freedom, they must also be resolute on the company’s goals. Lean too far in any one direction, the theory goes, and the project or even the business will be likely to suffer.
The risk, of course, is that the stereotypical choice of whether it is more valuable to be feared or loved creates an unsustainable tension, as leaders oscillate between behaviors that are inconsistent and unclear in their application.
Challenging this notion, long-time c-suite executive, Jozef Opdeweegh, provides his perspective on how to best reconcile these facets of leadership. In doing so he explains how viewing understanding and accountability as a binary choice is a false dilemma. Instead, he shows how it’s possible, with skill and practice, to hold these two goals in a constructive and productive tension.
The Importance of Boundaries
There are many types of leadership; however, the best kind is one who can adapt their actions to the situation at hand. No one wants to have a project lead who is cold or impersonal. On the other hand, a manager who is overly accommodating and does not hold those they manage accountable is also not effective or sustainable over the long term.
“It can be extremely challenging for individuals who have never led a team before to be suddenly put in a position that requires such a complex combination of skills,” says Jozef Opdeweegh.
The key, Opdeweegh belives, is to understand and communicate the boundaries of any given situation. “If there’s room for creativity and difference (in, say, marketing) then say so and allow that to flow, but be clear, for example, that the budget must not be breached and that any solution must align to our values. Similarly, allowing for mistakes gives colleagues confidence, but a good leader insists on learning from those missteps and does not tolerate their regular repetition.”
Good leaders must be compassionate, but most of all they must be fair.
This means allowing for individuality but always being mindful of behaviors that are damaging to the team as a whole. It’s equally vital that leaders don’t allow personal preferences to influence their decisions or keep them from holding people accountable. If corrective actions were taken with one coworker for a specific mistake, similar or equivalent actions should be taken if an error of the same nature happens again, regardless of who makes the mistake.
Jozef Opdeweegh explains, “When you are working in teams, camaraderie naturally forms over time. As a result, it can be difficult to hold close colleagues accountable when they make a mistake; this is when fairness and consistency are most key. I’ve been in the position of reprimanding coworkers I like very much, and it’s never comfortable. But, you know, invariably your colleagues know you’re if being fair-and in most cases, it actually strengthens the relationship.”
Get feedback and seek support
Feedback is essential for any leader, as is support from those who are experts or have experience in a particular field.
In organizations where feedback is not regularly shared, performance cannot be as good as it otherwise would be. Good leaders should seek regular feedback, not to validate their success and boost their ego, but to find ways of helping everyone move forward. Formal performance reviews have a role to play but ideally, leaders develop a culture where everyone offers and accepts constructive feedback as the daily norm.
When leaders are tasked with addressing sensitive situations or an issue they have not come across before, they should seek guidance from external sources, with more experience and knowledge. There is no shame-indeed the opposite-in seeking guidance so that we make the right calls and address issues in the correct way for everyone.
Jozef says “Leaders should not fall into the bad habit of relying solely on themselves. After all, you wouldn’t do that with your car, or your health would you? I often reach out to peers and experienced contacts for their perspectives and wisdom. No leader can experience every situation, or be an expert in every field-and at a very practical level, often just talking through problems with a third party can lead to constructive solutions.”
Conclusions and false dilemma
Leadership is an intricate and often difficult skill to master, says Jozef Opdeweegh. “But the idea that we have to choose between styles of empathy and accountability is a false dilemma.” As Opdeweegh explains, through boundaries, fairness, feedback, and support we can hold the two in constructive tension. Being a leader is not a skill that you learn once, he concludes; rather it is something that must be constantly and mindfully practiced.
SOURCE: Jozef Opdeweegh
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