After reading each of the articles for the Ten Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders, you might summarize the lessons for employees as follows, “Don’t be snarky, stupid or a slacker.” For managers, the summary might be, “Don’t be a self-absorbed jerk.”
Actually, the true message of the Ten Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders is not one of negativity. It is, “Do your job in a way that helps everyone else do their job. Be kind and be positive. Be a persuasive leader.”
In his book, Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman, PhD, describes six different styles of leadership – Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting and Commanding. He proposes that the most effective leaders easily move among these styles, adopting the one that meets the needs of the moment.
Goleman’s international bestseller Emotional Intelligence teaches that emotional intelligence—how we handle ourselves and our relationships—matters more than IQ or technical skill. In fact, all of Dr. Goleman’s writings advocate the use of interpersonal feelings and emotions to increase leadership effectiveness.
His findings corroborate the Ten Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders. Leadership is all about connecting with the people you lead. Goleman’s six styles of leadership are more about leadership skills than styles. There are essentially only two leadership styles – 1. Compulsory and 2. Persuasive.
The Compulsory Leader
The Compulsory Leader leads by force, criticism, micromanaging and threats. He/she also leads with emotion but his/her emotional leadership is best expressed by Niccolo Machiavelli, “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”
This leadership style is also known as authoritarian or autocratic, but the term compulsory is more indicative of how this leadership style is performed – by compulsion. The compulsory style is only effective in emergency situations and only for short periods of time.
Compulsory leaders can be successful if they are very talented or intelligent and no one else in the organization is inclined to challenge their decisions. The problem is that compulsory leaders are never as successful as they could be or for as long as they should be, and they are prone to catastrophic mistakes because there is no one to temper them.
Compulsory leaders are most likely to use these practices:
10 Practices of Compulsory Leaders
- Do whatever gets the desired result
- Be forceful
- Let people know that making you happy is their number one job.
- Allow contention in your workforce to sort out the weakest employees
- Create a work environment that emphasizes work above all else
- Train just enough to get the job done
- Get all you can out of your employees at the lowest possible cost
- Focus on cutting costs rather than increasing revenue
- Create a workplace that is safe enough not to get penalized
- Discipline often and in the most public way to show who is in control
There are compulsory leaders that use less compulsion but still maintain absolute control. They see themselves as benevolent monarchs. These compulsory leaders treat people more kindly but do not solicit nor heed the counsel of others. They create a less toxic but equally stifling work environment.
The Persuasive Leader
The Persuasive Leader is one who shows by his/her actions, attitude and speech that the employees are people and not objects to be exploited nor ignored. Employees are treated as the most valuable resource of the company.
This leadership style also includes participative, collaborative, delegative and Laissez-faire styles. The term persuasive is more indicative of how this leadership style is performed – by persuading other team members and allowing other team members to persuade the leader. The participative, collaborative, delegative and Laissez-faire styles are all slightly different but persuasion is at the root of all of them since there is always more than one person that needs to agree on the final solution.
The basic premise of persuasive leadership is that all opinions are heard, fully vetted and a decision is made that is satisfactory to all or most participants.
The Persuasive Leader uses these practices:
- Do what is right
- Be positive
- Keep your ego in check
- Eliminate contention in your workforce
- Promote a fertile work environment
- Train employees and encourage learning
- Nurture your employees
- Reward your employees fairly
- Create a safe and pleasant workplace
- Discipline with clarity and compassion
Most organizations have both types of leaders. The compulsory style is the easiest and the one that most people naturally tend towards. It strokes our pride and ego. The organizations that have the most compulsory leaders in the executive suite are those that are the most toxic.
It is much more difficult to be a Persuasive Leader. It requires a constant effort to regard everyone as a person who is worthy of consideration. It requires treating others as we would like to be treated. It requires self-control and overcoming pride. It is difficult, but the results are worth it.
Consider how different it feels to be the employee of a persuasive boss as opposed to a compulsory boss. Now use that feeling to commit to Persuasive Leadership.
A version of this article, specifically targeting CPAs, was published by Accounting Today here.