When you’re a business owner or a manager, the manner in which you lead will have an effect on the productivity and direction of those under your command.
Here are a few leadership styles – one to emulate, one to avoid, and one that urges caution.
Some companies look to replicate a particular style of leadership across their business, effectively creating leadership echoes down the company hierarchy. In a recent blog on Amazon’s jobs portal, the company maps out their leadership ideal – one that seems clearly based on Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO.
According to the Amazon guide to leadership, the primary principle that they emphasize in leaders is ‘customer obsession’ – the first imperative is for a leader to win and keep customers. Other traits that are emphasized are a focus on efficiency in operations and expenditures, a focus on facts, and being able to develop the talent under their command. Since the crucial determinant of leadership success is success with customers, this style gives a lot of room for difference in how a leader treats the employees under their command. It provides a leader with an excuse for treating their people poorly, if that harshness comes with the payoff of customer satisfaction. But a wise proponent of the Amazon style of leadership would recognise that respectful treatment of those under them, along with an emphasis on the crucial customer-first ethos, can produce incredible results for the company.
Not all leadership styles are good. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his novella For the Good of the Cause, tells a story about a community’s good intentions and good works being thwarted by a bureaucrat that leads like the former leader of the USSR, Josef Stalin. The tale was designed as a lesson about how a national leader’s style finds itself replicated further down the leadership chain – this phenomenon has already been seen in the Amazon style of leadership. In Stalin’s case, the leadership virtues that spread mimetically from him included isolated decision-making, opacity, coldness, vindictiveness and insensitivity to those beneath them.
If your leadership tends to have an authoritarian bent, you need to be careful that it does not alienate your workers. An alienated workforce is prone to dissatisfaction, which can undermine the authority that you love to cling to.
For some managers and employers, being friendly with your employees is a crucial part of your role. A happy workplace is one in which workers feel valued, and since feeling valued is an important component in creating value for a business, the leader does what they can to promote goodwill in the office.
The downside of the overly chummy leader is that when censure needs to happen in the office as a result of poor performance, unacceptable behaviour, or some other negative behaviour, the leader may struggle to enforce the necessary action to rectify the situation. Further, too much friendliness can result in an environment in which people spend too little time working. But friendliness, managed in the right way can create a culture of openness. Openness creates good intentions, new ideas, and innovation.