What is your leadership style? I have been asked this question too many times to count. If you are in a management position, I’ll bet you have been asked the same thing. It is a great question, because it causes us to do some self-reflection and analyze how we tend to lead.
As you ponder this question, think about leaders you have worked for. What did you admire about their leadership styles? What did you dislike about their leadership approach? What worked and what didn’t work? How did you and your coworkers respond to how they led?
I have found that the vast majority of poor, ineffective leaders land on one of two ends of the management spectrum: micro- and macro-management. The best managers recognize the spectrum and land their leadership style somewhere in between the two.
Webster’s dictionary defines micromanage as, “to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details”. As I think about all the micromanagers I’ve worked for, the words excessive control fits them like a glove! They were overbearing and tended to hover critically over those who worked for them. They left their followers feeling inept and negative towards their work. Micromanagement dissolved any desire to follow such leaders and the team’s will to succeed suffered.
At the other end of the management spectrum is the macro-manager. These leaders are so hands-off that you wonder if they actually do anything other than collect a larger paycheck than yours! Macro-managers lead from so far out that they cannot see obvious opportunities or pitfalls ahead. They view the workplace like someone zooming as far out on Google Maps as possible. They can see the country where their neighborhood is located, but not the roads and businesses unless they zoom back in. Macro-managers view the workplace the same way. They are rarely seen and often provide little direction to their employees. Like micromanagers, macro-managers also dissolve the desire to follow them.
Leadership is the art of influencing people. This is best performed by finding that sweet spot between micro- and macro-management. If you think of the best leaders you’ve followed, didn’t they land somewhere in-between micro- and macro-management in the way they led? The top leaders I have worked for were close enough to provide support and coaching but did so without hovering and nitpicking every detail. They led by getting out in front, but not so far ahead that I never saw or heard from them. The most influential leaders lead their teams by finding the sweet spot between micro- and macro-management.
As you lead your teams, keep consciously aware of your leadership style. Ask yourself whether you are providing too much direction or not enough. Knowing your followers is essential to leadership because it will help you better pinpoint where you need to land on the spectrum. You will discover that your people will respond to varying degrees of your style.
For example, the newest employee on your team may require more micromanagement from you at the very beginning. Be keenly aware of how quickly they grasp concepts and perform the skills needed to get their work completed. It’s a lot like teaching a child to ride a bike. As I taught my children to ride, I held onto the seat and handlebars as they sat on the bike. Running beside them as I held on and they found their balance gave them the security they needed while learning how to keep their balance. As their confidence grew, I would let go while still running beside them. Eventually, they no longer needed my constant micromanagement as they hopped on their bikes and took off. Look at your employees in the same way by providing up close direction and coaching at the beginning, but also recognize when to let them go it alone.
For more seasoned employees, you must learn to trust in their ability to perform tasks and get the results needed for the team to excel. Experienced employees will appreciate you not hovering and constantly criticizing their performance, but they also expect you to notice their efforts. The only way you can do this is if you stay involved enough to see how effective they are. As my children grew in their abilities to ride, I continued to provide encouragement and only coached them when it was necessary for their safety. Macro-managers never encourage their employees because they are too focused on the big picture to notice the efforts of their team members.
Influencing people truly is an art because everyone on your team needs different levels of encouragement from you. As a leader, it is up to you to know your followers well enough to provide the exact leadership style to properly influence them. As you go through your day, analyze how you are leading and keep aiming for that sweet spot between the micro- and macro-management spectrum based on what your team needs. Your team will appreciate it and your leadership will become more effective.