Not so long ago, leadership was solely based on your position or title. It was expected that you would use the authority associated with that title to recruit, direct, control and dismiss the workers under you. You were required to promote (if possible), discipline, and reprimand the ones that didn’t perform as directed. Many workers were required to perform relatively unchallenging tasks and were easily replaceable. Money was the key incentive used to motivate staff.
Some of you reading this article may have experienced this type of leadership. The effects are generally very negative on all people concerned, including the leader. Some of those effects are:
- You will develop staff that are overly dependent and are unable to take any action without permission
- Workers act out their resentment toward the leader by indirectly defying his/her authority.
- Workers can become overly critical and competitive with each other
- High turnover rates within an organisation
These effects are destructive and go a long way to stifling creativity and provoking “dissension in the ranks”
So what has changed in modern times?
Two things in particular:
- The need for organisations to do more with less, innovate and compete in an ever-changing global market.
- The needs and expectations of the people started changing.
70 years ago Abraham Maslow suggested that people wanted to feel fulfilled and energised by their work. They wanted to contribute, feel valued and make a difference. Both employees and organisations alike are coming to understand this fully.
Leaders have had to learn to embrace the people as their most important asset. I’d like to suggest that future leaders in all workplaces will be required not just to have strong minds, but also generous and caring hearts
“In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people, they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.” Ken Blanchard
So What is Constructive Leadership?
Constructive leadership is having a balance between achieving the task and managing the people. Knowing how to achieve the task with the people, knowing how to adapt your behavioural preferences to suit the preferences of the people you are working with. It’s having an encouraging and inspiring communication style that supports people to challenge their own thinking, to push the boundaries with creativity and objectivity. It’s to approach life and business energetically and with strong instincts and intuition.
Let me share a personal story with you.
I was working with the General Manager of a nickel mine in the Gold Fields. This Manager had come from a well-established mine site in Africa and knew there were better ways of mapping the mine, whereby more information could be taken from the one plan.
So he assigned the task to a key planner that he believed had the ability to stretch his current way of thinking. He explained that there were better ways of mapping the mine and more ways of uncovering vital information to ensure efficient and effective extraction of the ore. The GM funded a new software program and explained the type of information he wanted to extract and then handed the project over to the planner. He gave him the tools, gave him a scope of what he wanted and basically left it up to him to create.
When I came for my monthly visit, this leader gave up his own coaching hour for his planner because he wanted me to hear firsthand what this guy had created. He was absolutely thrilled with what he had achieved.
When I sat with the planner his story was so inspirational because not only had he created what he had been asked for, he had gone above and beyond and created a map and plan that well exceeded the GM’s expectations. The benefits for the entire mine was that they were able to extract far more information, setting them up to be far more accurate in their drilling exploits.
Truly I was so inspired by the whole story so I asked the planner;
“What’s it like to work for Martin? (the GM)” His response was –
“I love coming to work. I love every day here. I love working with Martin – he believes in me, he challenges me, but gives me the freedom to figure out how I can challenge the boundaries. I feel very privileged to work with such a great bloke.”
Can you imagine how productive this mine site was? Martin didn’t need to force people to work, he was able to inspire his workers through;
- Genuine interest in his people – he got to know them personally, not by going to the pub for a beer, but by getting to know about their families, their hobbies, what they loved and what they disliked about their work.
- Setting challenging goals, with the team, and with his belief in the people, they produced amazing results. He even nominated this planner for a town employee award.
“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders” – Tom Peters
What Can You Do To Achieve This as a leader?
Now that question is for you, because I’m sure you know the answer. However, as I’m writing this article, I will respond with how I would do it.
I always suggest firstly to find out where you currently are, what are your strengths, what are you good at, and ensure you do more of that. Identify the areas that you want to develop and learn ways of doing that. *Get feedback and measure how you are tracking.
Let’s use my logo (a tetrahedron) as a prop for explaining the 4 key points of leadership. *A tetrahedron is the strongest minimal structure – shaped like a pyramid, with 4 points and 4 vectors or 4 equal sides. Each vector must be equal in length, width and strength as the other three sides. If you were to then put downward pressure on any one of the points the structure will not collapse.
The 4 Key Points of Constructive Leadership:
1. Set a Shared Vision and Goals
Live and breathe the vision so people will be inspired by it. Focus on a standard of achieving excellence, and have a desire to continually challenge the status quo.
Set realistic, attainable, yet challenging goals. Lead by example. You cannot fake this; you must live and breathe it. Deal with conflict directly, rationally and encourage input from team members.
2. Be Self-actualised
That is be confident, be self-aware, believe in yourself and your capacity. Have an energetic, exciting approach to life, with a strong desire to know about and experience things directly. Be open minded, respect others differences. Your zest for life will be contagious.
3. Be the Coach
Enjoy developing people by having a genuine interest in enabling them to be the best they can be. Be open and accepting of people’s differences. Be patient with each individual’s gestation time i.e time it takes to grow and develop. Be willing to have your own beliefs and values challenged, demonstrate humility. Develop unique ways of involving individuals and teams in solving problems. Ask questions and seek to understand rather than be judgemental and critical.
4. Appreciate the value of relationships
Have excellent interpersonal relationships, appreciate people, and establish strong emotional and social ties. Be relaxed and comfortable in your own skin in crowds. Don’t feel you need to entertain others; it’s more about listening and getting to know people. Emphasise the value of teams and diversity. Have highly tuned
Don’t feel you need to entertain others; it’s more about listening and getting to know people. Emphasise the value of teams and diversity. Have highly tuned communication skills.
“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” Warren Bennis
For some, you might feel you are already well on the road to constructive leadership, for others it might seem an endless journey.
As Lao Tzu, said,
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Brian Tracy said
“If you want to get really good at something, do something about it every day for 10 years and at the end of that time you will be an expert”.
I have personally experienced this journey developing myself as a coach, establishing my business 16 years ago and with the thought that if I did something, learned something new every day for 10 years I will be an expert. I’m still on the journey but I know a hell of a lot more than I knew 16 years ago.
My advice to you; Start your journey today. You won’t regret it.