Our cat Snickers is a leader. She is an outdoor cat. When she wants to come in, she sits by our sliding glass door. If we don’t jump up immediately, she climbs up the screen door and then jumps off. She’s ruined two screen doors in the past eight years. We just installed another new screen. We are especially motivated now, and my wife Lori and I jump immediately when we see her at the door to avoid the consequences of her destructive behaviors. She is clearly a leader. Yet, what kind of leader is she? Her leadership creates negative emotional reactions.
Is she the kind of leader to which we aspire? She manipulates. She puts her needs above ours. She is unaware of what is important for us. She doesn’t consider how upset we are with her behavior. Her priority is getting the result, and she gets it. The human side of leadership is missing. Well, after all, she is only a cat.
Is a leader’s most important responsibility to get results at all costs? Does the end justify the means? Or is the most important responsibility to create an optimal environment where results are achieved with autonomy, trust, and engagement? Can an optimum leader balance the human side and still achieve the desired results?
We frequently see leaders (like Snickers) who believe they must drive results at all costs. They look for ways to control (manipulate) behaviors. They evaluate individual performance and create incentives and threats to achieve the desired results. This approach often creates unintended consequences– the same emotional responses created by Snickers’ actions. These leaders don’t appreciate nor know how to manage change with trust.
Our dynamic economy creates a need for increased agility and continuous innovation. Self-organizing teams and self-managing employees in a high trust environment are required to achieve this level of innovation and agility. We need to know how to manage the human side and develop our ability and knowledge to manage change while protecting trust.
To achieve this level of agility, leaders must create environments that engage people naturally and not force so-called compliance with bribes and threats. Courageous leaders allow people to make decisions within a healthy context. This context includes the creation and continuous communication of a clear vision, mission, and strategy with aligned values. It includes the human side of leadership or the relationship side. Trust, empathy, listening, asking questions, and facilitating are just some of the skills needed. Optimum leaders can develop these skills.
We need Transformational Leadership that creates choice. With choice comes engagement. With engagement comes performance. Self-management and choice must replace manager-dependent manipulation leadership. We can avoid the Snicker’s leadership method, get the results we desire and avoid the unintended consequences.
Dr. Wally Hauck is a senior vice president and co-owner of Communico. He is the author of Art of Leading: 3 Principles for Predictable Performance Improvement, Stop the Leadership Malpractice: How to Replace the Typical Performance Appraisal, Unleash Employee Engagement: 7 Initial Conditions for Outstanding Results