Back in college, my dorm decided to have a junior high themed night. Complete with time at to the roller rink, followed by time at the mall.
And lots of music. Initial suggestions for the mixtape included:
- Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration“
- REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight this Feeling” and
- Air Supply’s “Two Less Lonely People in the World“
I was thrilled. In my excitement, I went to Goodwill to look for 80’s clothes. I was thrilled to find an actual Thriller jacket!
The jacket was a few sizes too small. But it looked so cool.
Sure it was tight. A bit uncomfortable. It constricted movement. Actually, that discomfort and constricted movement made the roller skating harder.
But I thought the jacket looked cool, so I made it work.
Does this sound like your leadership style?
Many lead like this. Their leadership style is a little tight. A bit uncomfortable. But they think they ought to meet other people’s expectations so they try to make it work.
They do things they’ve seen other leaders do. Or they try copying exactly what the latest HBR article said they should do. Or the approach they just heard on a leadership podcast.
Does that sound like how you feel about your leadership style? That approach to leadership is like me wearing my second-hand Thriller jacket. It doesn’t really fit. It may make the leader feel cool. But her team is often moved in fits and starts, like I did trying to stay balanced in the roller rink.
The jacket was perfect for the original person. It was a great fit. But it’s awkward for the current leader. And it’s disjointed for those they lead.
Finding a jacket that fits
The leader’s journey naturally involves copying other people’s techniques and trying out other people’s strategies. But there comes a point where it’s time for the leader to fashion their own jacket. One that fits perfectly from them. Here at the Concord Leadership Group, we call this stage Quadrant 3. Quadrant 3 Leaders dare to take off the constricting jacket and seek the one that uniquely fits them.
A large part of that process involves regular reflection. Regularly thinking about
- Why some parts of your style get the results you seek. And awareness of other parts of your style that don’t.
- How you learn – and if you are learning. (The number of leaders who tell me they don’t read is astounding.) Knowing your preferences will help you see ways you might be over relying on communication styles that don’t fit your team.
- And on what leadership sources you’ll trust…and what ones will be just noise.
As a leader, it seems everyone has an opinion about how you should be better. But too often, they don’t have the full picture. So their “advice” (more often critique) becomes like my two sizes too small Thriller jacket.
A too small Thriller jacket is fine for goofing around a roller rink with your friends. But you and your team deserve more from your leadership.
Marc A. Pitman
CEO, Concord Leadership