A Leadership Framework – and how to keep it running
What makes a good leader? The question that has been around since decisions had to be made and actions needed to be implemented. I would like to share with you my reflection on this question, by sharing anecdotes and experiences, which could provide you with a framework that is easy to remember:
- Authenticity: Be yourself and do not pretend to be someone else, naturally ensuring credibility and trust.
- Perspective: Offer your team, people you work with, and the organisation perspective.
- Rules of engagement: Maintain structure, guidance, culture, rules, expectations, and clarity.
- Leadership repertoires: whatever the situation, organisation, team or co-worker responds best to – whilst not breaching authenticity, perspective, boundaries & discipline – is used to colour the leadership style: autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, transformational, transactional.
- 3 elements that shape the influence of the leader’s behaviour: 1) Personality, 2) Values & beliefs, 3) The attitude
Perhaps you find it useful.
Anecdotes & Experiences: in chronlogical order
1 Offer your teams a perspective so they are incentivised and motivated to grow because they know that their efforts will be rewarded.
Let’s get a set of those desk racers, I said to my colleague whom I shared an office with. Yeah, we have nothing to do anyway and nobody seems to care, he replied. A week later two tiny remote-controlled cars were in our hands to put down on a racing track nicely laid out on our huge empty desks.
It was the Summer of 2005, and 8 months earlier I joined a multinational as an internal consultant for global commercial projects, operating from Switzerland. I applied for the job because I had lived in Switzerland before and I had fond memories of the lifestyle and nature. I also wanted to leave my previous job in the UK, because I was not motivated anymore, as there was no vision and strategy, and my boss kept my potential contained up to a point that I had to write manuals for construction managers about how to use a scanner and send scans per email without blowing up the network and crashing all CAD systems – we talk 2004.
My new job in Switzerland started well. I was assigned to a global CRM project with pilots in the US, South Africa, Venezuela, Mexico and Sri Lanka. All business class flights, all five-star hotels, being picked up by limousines and good food. The pre-financial crisis rock star life and I was only 28.
But after the pilot finished and I had reported my recommendations, the corporate commercial consultancy pipeline was empty. For months, our team had nothing to do, with no new projects within sight. No projects, not gaining experience, no development. I asked my boss if I could join another team which was drowning in work, so that I could be and feel useful, but he refused to let me go.
My colleague and I got frustrated, bored and eventually demotivated. Not because we were not jetting around the world, but because we felt we were too young to drink coffee all day, surf the Internet and leave at 3 pm to drink beers at the lake. The little desk racers only offered some relief, but not enough.
A few months later, a new team needed consultants. I volunteered and joined them. I was welcomed and I felt like part of a team, I learned a lot and could contribute again. The pipeline was so full, that we worked 80 hours a week, and slept more in planes and hotels, than at home, but I felt useful. I never returned to my old boss.
2 Be your authentic self, so you build trustful relationships with your teams and have their loyalty.
A few years later, I was promoted or rather cherry-picked to work for the Executive Committee of the same company. The ExCo member who hired me, and I met in Moscow, where I was leading a strategy project and where he headed steering committees for numerous investment projects – which became part of my new responsibilities later as well.
I had not met him before but when I walked next to him down the office stairs in snowy Moscow, he said: so, now I meet the guy who stopped the strategy project for Russia. He introduced himself and asked me why I stopped the project.
My colleague and I were assigned to run a global roadmap strategy in Russia, which we started with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. However, after a couple of months of not receiving any support from the local project manager, who eventually had full responsibility for the project, it felt like flogging a dead horse. On top, the Russian organisation had more than 60 corporate projects running of which many to do with expansion, so there was little chance that we would succeed. At the same time, we were running projects in India and New Zealand, so we decided it was best to stop our Moscow activities and concentrate on the others.
That makes sense, he said. He smiled and complimented me for having the guts to do this and not being the typical corporate soldier. Three weeks later he invited me for an interview.
I worked in this new capacity before and during the Great Financial Crisis. Once the dark clouds of the crisis covered our market area, my boss invited me for a glass of wine and asked me to go through this crisis together as a team to return the area to prosperity. It was a question from man to man, not from boss to employee.
I was responsible for the strategic plans for large turnaround projects, stopping expansion plans, mothballing manufacturing lines, and restructuring organisations in Eastern Europe, Russia and Azerbaijan. My boss had the overall responsibility and called the shots, which included laying off top executives, withdrawing investment budgets and overseeing tough cost-cutting programs.
My office was next to his and I remember that several country management team members and regional executives visited his office and the door would close. When the meeting was over, some came to stop by and greet me. I asked them how the meeting went, and most said: it was good, I got fired, but it was a respectful, honest and human conversation. We have a great boss, he is a good man.
3 Set boundaries and maintain discipline: the rules of engagement so your team can grow within a structure and feel part of something bigger.
Years went by and I developed into a leader myself. Running the P&L for a large market in the very east of our continent to overseeing 150 project managers all over Europe. Looking back, I think there are many things I could have done better, and many things I did well. The experience I gained until I quit my corporate life is worth gold, in particular with my current profession in leadership development and coaching. There are hardly any work and leadership-related situations that I have not experienced myself or have been exposed to.
Every client that I work with is different and all have their particular challenges and opportunities. But when it comes to leading teams – and especially over the last years – people struggle. Leaders struggle with what to allow in terms of working from home, how to find and keep the glue sticky in their teams and organisations, how to create a bond and still be tough when it is needed, and how to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
When I led a team that was on the road, including myself, 80% of the time, there was not much time available to manage and lead on the spot. Short phone calls, emails back and forth, virtual team meetings which were merely focused on project updates, and the annual appraisal meeting. I struggled with the same issues as my clients do now, so I guess it is nothing new to leadership.
At the time, one of our projects was to implement all over the Eastern European market a customer charter. The customer charter laid out what our companies promise customers, what they stand for and what their responsibilities are, all broken down to measurable levels so that the teams knew what they would be accountable and responsible for.
The impact was very positive and it greatly improved our customer satisfaction scores – for the experts, our NPS – which was a global roadmap objective. But where customers became more satisfied, our internal stakeholders had much to complain about. Our market and business data analytics system had too many bugs, was not always reliable and the interface could be better.
The way we responded to these complaints of our colleagues was not structured, it was rather random and unpredictable. It was not clear if an issue was solved or when it would be solved. If we would have measured stakeholder satisfaction at that time, I wondered if we would have received a lot of compliments – probably not.
But there was a way out right in front of our eyes: we used the customer charter concept for ourselves as a blueprint for our rules of engagement in our team and with our stakeholders. As a team, we listed our stakeholders, collected their needs, translated these needs into what we should deliver, how and by when, how we communicated and be transparent in our processes. We also defined how we would work together, what we needed from each other and how we would flag issues.
It was a success for us as a team, it brought us closer together, but also closer to the country organisations, the atmosphere improved, we functioned better, our stakeholders complimented us for the progress and complaints decreased. In most of my coaching programs, sooner or later the topic of setting boundaries and maintaining discipline comes up and we discuss how my client can implement rules of engagement to create a culture, in which everyone feels comfortable performing.
4 Match the choice of leadership repertoire with people responsiveness and situational circumstances.
I look back on my career before starting my own company in 2016, as turbulent, rich in opportunities, development, and experience, and fortunately, it has offered more successes than failures. I have met a huge number of leaders with altogether a broad variety of leadership styles, over close to 2 decades.
Some were true leaders for people, some managing processes and some administrating activities. Whatever the style or intention of these leaders was, the positive impact of their leadership style was always best when it suited the situation or individuals they were leading.
The best leaders, or most complete leaders so to say, were the ones that knew when to apply an autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, transformational, or transactional leadership style. How they used their repertoire depended on the situation and the responsiveness of the people they were leading.
5 Personality, values & beliefs, and attitude have a significant and relevant impact on the organisation or team.
A little while after I quit the corporate world, I was gladfully accepted by HEC Paris and the University of Oxford to join their Master’s program on leadership, organisations and change. It was the best opportunity I could wish for to reflect on my leadership-related experiences. The program offered courses, literature, research and experiential settings to dive very deep into the core of leadership and organisational behaviour.
In my dissertation The Chief Empathy Officer, I wrote about my research findings concerning empathic leadership and psychological safety, and how CEOs perceive their responsibility for establishing these in their management teams. This a topic very close to my heart, as I experienced many examples of leaders by whom empathic leadership was present at various levels, which had a significant impact on the team climate and subsequently performance.
The thesis I started with was that the leader has the most impact on culture and performance: the gatekeeper for changes in team culture and performance. I interviewed ten CEOs to find out how they perceive their role and what I eventually could derive from both the literature study and the interviews, as conclusions and recommendations.
One apparent outcome was that the leader’s personality traits, as well as the leader’s values and beliefs, and attitude have a significant and relevant impact on the organisation or team.
Personality refers to the unique characteristics that make up an individual’s identity, including their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Values are the principles and beliefs that an individual holds to be important. They often serve as a guiding force in decision-making and behaviour. Beliefs are convictions that an individual holds to be true. They can be based on personal, cultural, or societal values and can influence an individual’s actions and attitudes. Attitude refers to an individual’s overall perspective or outlook on a particular issue or situation. It can be positive, negative, or neutral, and it can influence an individual’s behaviour and decision-making.
In the context of leadership, personality, values, beliefs, and attitude are all important factors that can shape the way a leader interacts with others and makes decisions. A leader’s personality, values, beliefs, and attitude can all contribute to their leadership style and the way they are perceived by others.
Some guidelines to support your leadership efforts
Authentic leadership is a leadership style that is characterized by honesty, transparency, and integrity. To become an authentic leader, there are a few key things you can do:
- Know yourself: Take the time to understand your values, beliefs, and motivations. This will help you lead with authenticity and integrity.
- Be transparent: Be open and honest with your team, colleagues, and stakeholders. Don’t try to hide mistakes or weaknesses.
- Practice self-awareness: Pay attention to your own emotions and behaviours, and strive to understand how they impact others.
- Lead with integrity: Do what you say you will do and hold yourself accountable to high ethical standards.
- Encourage open communication: Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas and concerns.
- Embrace vulnerability: It’s okay to admit when you don’t know something or to ask for help. This can help build trust and respect with your team.
- Set an example: As a leader, your actions and behaviours set the tone for the team. Lead by example and others will follow.
Remember, becoming an authentic leader takes time and practice. Don’t be afraid to seek out mentorship or leadership training to help you along the way.
There are several ways to offer perspective to employees:
- Communicate the company’s mission and values: clearly communicating the company’s mission and values can help employees understand how their work fits into the bigger picture and the impact they are making.
- Share company updates and performance: Keeping employees informed about the company’s performance and future plans can help them understand the context in which they are working and how their contributions are contributing to the overall success of the organization.
- Provide training and development opportunities: Offering training and development opportunities can help employees gain new skills and perspectives that can help them see their work in a different light and understand how they can contribute to the company’s goals.
- Encourage open communication: Encouraging open communication and dialogue between employees and management can help employees feel heard and valued, and can also provide them with the opportunity to share their own perspectives and ideas.
- Offer opportunities for collaboration: Providing opportunities for employees to work together on projects and initiatives can help them gain new perspectives and learn from one another.
- Foster a culture of feedback and appreciation: Encouraging a culture of feedback and appreciation can help employees feel recognized and valued for their contributions, which can help them feel more invested in the company’s success.
Rules of Engagement
Setting effective boundaries as a leader is important for maintaining a healthy work environment and ensuring that you and your team can be productive. To set boundaries and ensure that your team adheres to rules of engagement as part of a team culture, you can try the following:
- Communicate your expectations clearly: Make sure that everyone on the team knows what you expect in terms of their work, communication, and behaviour.
- Establish team norms: Work with your team to establish norms for how you will work together. These could include things like how decisions will be made, how conflicts will be resolved, and how you will communicate with each other.
- Set boundaries around your time: Make sure to set boundaries around when you are available and when you are not. This will help everyone on the team to respect each other’s time and focus.
- Establish rules of engagement: Decide on how you will interact with each other, including how you will give and receive feedback, how you will handle conflicts, and how you will work together to achieve your goals.
- Follow through on consequences: If someone on the team does not follow the rules of engagement, it’s important to follow through on the consequences that you have established. This will show that you are serious about maintaining the rules.
- Be consistent: It’s important to be consistent in your communication and behaviour to ensure that everyone on the team knows what to expect.
- Seek feedback: Ask your team for feedback on your boundaries and rules of engagement, and be open to making adjustments as needed. This will help you to continuously improve and maintain a healthy team culture.
- Encourage accountability: Encourage team members to hold each other accountable for following the rules of engagement. This will help to create a culture of adherence to the rules.
- Lead by example: As a leader, it’s important to model the behaviour that you expect from your team. This will help to set the tone for the team.
- Review and revise the rules as needed: As you work together, you may find that some of the rules of engagement are not working as well as you had hoped. In these cases, it’s important to review and revise the rules as needed to ensure that they are effective.
There are several leadership styles that a leader can use, and the most effective leaders are often those who can adapt their style to fit the needs of their team and the situation. Here are a few common leadership styles:
This style involves the leader making all of the decisions and telling the team what to do. This can be effective in situations where quick decisions need to be made, but it can also be alienating for team members and may not foster creativity or innovation.
An autocratic leadership style involves the leader making all of the decisions and telling the team what to do. Here are a few examples of behaviours that might be associated with an autocratic leadership style:
- Telling team members what to do without seeking input or feedback.
- Making decisions without consulting the team.
- Giving orders rather than asking for cooperation.
- Not delegating tasks or responsibilities to team members.
- Not allowing team members to make decisions or take initiative.
- Criticizing or punishing team members who disagree or make mistakes.
It’s important to note that an autocratic leadership style can be effective in some situations, such as when quick decisions need to be made, but it can also be alienating for team members and may not foster creativity or innovation.
This style involves the leader seeking input and involving the team in decision-making. This can foster a sense of ownership and commitment among team members, but it can also be time-consuming and may not be effective in situations where quick decisions are needed.
A democratic leadership style involves the leader seeking input and involving the team in decision-making. Here are a few examples of behaviours that might be associated with a democratic leadership style:
- Asking for team input and feedback before making decisions.
- Allowing team members to contribute their ideas and suggestions.
- Encouraging team members to take on leadership roles and make decisions.
- Delegating tasks and responsibilities to team members.
- Holding team meetings to discuss and make decisions as a group.
- Consistently seeking feedback from team members to improve processes and outcomes.
A democratic leadership style can foster a sense of ownership and commitment among team members, but it can also be time-consuming and may not be effective in situations where quick decisions are needed.
This style involves the leader taking a hands-off approach and allowing the team to make their own decisions. This can foster creativity and innovation, but it can also lead to a lack of direction and a lack of accountability.
A laissez-faire leadership style involves the leader taking a hands-off approach and allowing the team to make their own decisions. Here are a few examples of behaviours that might be associated with a laissez-faire leadership style:
- Allowing team members to make their own decisions and take initiative.
- Not providing clear direction or guidance to the team.
- Delegating tasks and responsibilities to team members without providing oversight or support.
- Not setting clear expectations or goals for the team.
- Not providing feedback or direction to team members.
A laissez-faire leadership style can foster creativity and innovation, but it can also lead to a lack of direction and a lack of accountability. It’s important to find a balance between providing support and guidance to the team while also allowing them the freedom to take initiative and make their own decisions.
This style involves the leader inspiring and motivating the team to achieve their full potential. This can be effective in fostering a positive team culture, but it may not be as effective in situations where quick decisions need to be made.
A transformational leadership style involves the leader inspiring and motivating the team to achieve their full potential. Here are a few examples of behaviours that might be associated with a transformational leadership style:
- Communicating a clear vision and inspiring team members to work towards it.
- Providing individualized support and coaching to team members to help them develop their skills and abilities.
- Encouraging risk-taking and innovation.
- Providing regular feedback and recognition to team members.
- Leading by example and setting high standards for oneself.
- Fostering a positive team culture and building strong relationships with team members.
A transformational leadership style can be effective in fostering a positive team culture, but it may not be as effective in situations where quick decisions need to be made. It’s important for leaders to find a balance between inspiring and motivating the team and being able to make effective decisions.
This style involves the leader setting clear expectations and rewards or consequences for meeting or not meeting those expectations. This can be effective in promoting accountability, but it may not foster a sense of ownership or commitment among team members.
A transactional leadership style involves the leader setting clear expectations and rewards or consequences for meeting or not meeting those expectations. Here are a few examples of behaviours that might be associated with a transactional leadership style:
- Setting clear goals and expectations for the team.
- Providing rewards or incentives for meeting goals or expectations.
- Establishing consequences for not meeting goals or expectations.
- Providing feedback and direction to team members to help them meet expectations.
- Monitoring and measuring progress towards goals.
A transactional leadership style can be effective in promoting accountability, but it may not foster a sense of ownership or commitment among team members. Leaders need to find a balance between setting clear expectations and providing support and resources to help team members meet those expectations.
The big five personality traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These traits can influence a person’s leadership style and the way that they interact with their team. Here’s how the big five personality traits might relate to different leadership styles:
Openness: Leaders who score high in openness may be more open to new ideas and approaches, and they may be more flexible and adaptable in their leadership style. They may be more likely to adopt a democratic or transformational leadership style.
Conscientiousness: Leaders who score high in conscientiousness may be organized, responsible, and reliable, and they may be more likely to adopt a transactional or autocratic leadership style.
Extraversion: Leaders who score high in extraversion may be more outgoing and assertive, and they may be more likely to adopt a directive or visionary leadership style.
Agreeableness: Leaders who score high in agreeableness may be more collaborative and inclined to seek consensus, and they may be more likely to adopt a democratic or transformational leadership style.
Neuroticism: Leaders who score high in neuroticism may be more sensitive and emotional, and they may be more likely to adopt a supportive or coaching leadership style.
It’s important to note that these are general trends and that individuals may exhibit a wide range of leadership styles regardless of their personality traits.
There is a balance between nature and nurture. Nature and nurture are both important factors in leadership development.
Nature refers to the inherent traits and characteristics that a person is born with. These can include things like intelligence, personality, and physical abilities. Nature can influence the way that a person approaches leadership and the leadership style that they are most likely to adopt.
Nurture refers to the environment and experiences that shape a person’s development. This can include things like upbringing, education, and life experiences. Nurture can influence the way that a person develops their skills and abilities and the way that they view the world and their role as a leader.
Both nature and nurture play a role in leadership development, and it’s important to consider both when trying to understand and develop leadership skills.
Values & Beliefs
Values and beliefs are often shaped by a variety of factors, including one’s upbringing, education, culture, and personal experiences. They can also be influenced by the people and institutions around us, such as family, friends, religion, and society.
Some values and beliefs are deeply held and may be influenced by one’s core identity, while others may be more fluid and subject to change over time. It’s common for people to have a mix of values and beliefs that shape their perspective and guide their actions and decisions.
It’s important for individuals to reflect on their values and beliefs and to be aware of how they influence their behaviour and decision-making. This can help to ensure that one’s actions are aligned with their core values and beliefs and that they are living in a way that is authentic and meaningful to them.
In this respect, we should not leave one’s attitude out.
Attitude refers to a person’s overall outlook or perspective on a situation or concept. It can influence how they think, feel, and behave. Attitudes can be positive, negative, or neutral, and they can be influenced by a variety of factors, including personal values, beliefs, and experiences.
While it is possible to change one’s attitude over time, it can be a challenging process as attitudes are often deeply held and influenced by many factors. However, with effort and self-reflection, it is possible to change one’s attitude. Here are a few strategies that can be helpful in changing one’s attitude:
- Reflect on the reasons for your current attitude: Try to understand the factors that have influenced your attitude and consider whether it is still serving you in a positive way.
- Seek out new experiences and information: Exposure to new experiences and information can help to challenge and expand your perspective, which can lead to a change in attitude.
- Practice gratitude: Focusing on the things that you are grateful for can help to shift your perspective and improve your overall attitude.
- Surround yourself with positive influences: The people you spend time with can influence your attitude, so try to surround yourself with people who have a positive outlook.
- Practice positive self-talk: The way you talk to yourself can influence your attitude, so try to focus on the positive and reframe negative thoughts.
Changing one’s attitude is not always easy, but it can be a worthwhile and rewarding process. It’s important to be patient and persistent and to remember that change takes time.