The Best Leaders Tip #8 – Get Smart: There is no one best leadership style

This is my 8th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #8          Be flexible.  There are situational, transformational, transactional leaders.  There are servant leaders, authoritarians, democratic leaders, laissez-faire, visionary, charismatics, paternalistic, collaborative, consensus-driven, participative, coaching, commanding, pace-setting… We know about most of these, and many of us have identified with one or more of these styles. While scholars differ in how they type leadership practices and behaviors, they agree that the most effective leaders know how to effectively use multiple styles to meet various needs at different times in their organizations. (Read about types of leaders here).

There are many types of leaders, and many tools to help us understand our own styles based on personality and temperament.  I believe these are helpful only to a point, because the best leaders know how they must adapt their leadership styles to be effective in specific situations.  So we have to become proficient in many leadership behaviors, no matter what our natural styles or preferences might be. Read more about leadership theories here.

For example, leading in a crisis requires a more commanding or directive style, and during a strategy or brainstorming session, a collaborative or more hands-off style works better.  Leading through long-term strategy shift, a merger or acquisition, scandal, or economic hardship also require different skills and behaviors.  The best leaders know these differences and when to use them.  Read more here.

Read a New York Times article about leadership styles here.


The Best Leaders Tip #7 – Be a good leader, not just good at your job

This is my 7th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #7          Be a good leader, not just good at your job.  People get promoted much of the time because they’re proficient at the core business of their organizations.  CPAs become CFOs, engineers become project managers, journalists become executive producers.  Organizations need to do a better job at making sure the core requirements of these promotions include expertise related not just to technique, but also to people.  This includes getting educated and experienced in areas like interpersonal communication, motivating teams, creating and communication an organizational vision, providing formal and informal feedback, holding effective meetings, predicting and managing change, and so much more.  conducting evaluations, giving and receiving feedback, and self-awareness, which is the foundation of all of this. (For one example, click here for a New York Times article about 360-degree evaluations.)

Mike Wallace: the PR pro’s nemesis and teacher

[SB10001424052702303772904577331921838185312 ]Crisis communicators honed their skills and established their reputations by how well they could handle a Mike Wallace type of media ambush. The iconic newsman, who died on April 7 at the age of 93, helped to give his CBS show 60 Minutes leadership status among investigative news programming. He also gave public relations professionals a reason to create and practice crisis communication plans, media train executives, perfect the interview arts of deflection, not saying too much, staying calm and on message, and develop nerves of steel.

Journalism has changed in so many ways on so many levels during Mr. Wallace’s lifetime and career, and change is good. As long as news professionals (whether broadcast, print, bloggers or anything else) aspire to and maintain the stringent standards of great reporting, ethics and service demonstrated by Mr. Wallace and his peers.

The world keeps changing…

Read more about Mike Wallace, his life as a news person, and the PR profession.

I just need some space!

The proliferation of social media and all the many technology tools we have are mostly designed to make us more productive – in our professional and personal lives. Yet, as David Allen points out in the New York Times recently, many of us feel less productive than ever! Allen suggests that to solve this issue, rather than throw even more organizational tools at us, we need to “create a structure for capturing, clarifying and organizing all the forces that assail us; and to ensure time and space for thinking, reflecting and decision making.”

Allen’s article appears in the NYT Sunday Business feature, Reshaping the Workplace, and is alongside a piece by Lawrence W. Cheek about office design. The point of these two and other articles in this interesting feature is that how office spaces are designed will mean more for worker productivity, fulfillment and creativity than other solutions we’ve employed until now. Google, DreamWorks, G.E. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are among the organizations cited as examples of innovatively designed workspaces. These take into consideration critical factors like: what does an open floor plan mean for introverts? how can I keep information confidential and conversations private if I’m in the middle of thirty co-workers?  how can I concentrate with all this noise all around me all the time?

Workspaces have evolved, as have many other work-related areas – the result of decades of study. Things like flex-time, tele-commuting, job sharing and a range of other innovations have contributed to the satisfaction and engagement of many of us. 

Which innovations like these have meant the most to you, to the world of work in general? I’d be interested to hear!

Causes and You

A few short weeks into this new year, and corporate crises already have started to make news. PR pundits are analyzing the Carnival Cruise crash in Italy, criticizing the CEO’s lack of presence in the situation among other areas deemed poorly handled. The Penn State scandal took on a sadder tone with the passing of Joe Paterno this past weekend – the university communication team nearly overwhelmed by the situation last fall and, many said, fell down on handling that crisis.

Chances are, this year as every other (and this an election year!) will see more scandals and crises. How are companies going to handle them? I believe you have to prepare, prepare, prepare. And… have a solid corporate social responsibility (CSR) program in place – BEFORE you need it.

By now, almost everyone realizes that customers, employees and other key stakeholders – internal and external-demand they treat people fairly, are transparent with their finances, help the earth, keep their products safe, buy locally, partner with other business responsibly and respond immediately to their concerns, needs and opinions. A survey conducted by Cone Communication in 2011 found that:

  • 81% of consumers say companies have a responsibility to address key social and environmental issues beyond their local communities;
  • 93% of consumers say companies must go beyond legal compliance to operate responsibly; and,
  • 94% of consumers say companies must analyze and evolve their business practices to make their impact as positive as possible

CSR has been linked to brand loyalty, increased consumer base and a wider recruitment pool. This is a crucial, reputation-building, positive foundation to have when a crisis hits. (Not “if”… “when” – none of us is immune to crisis.)

One key aspect of CSR is cause-related sponsorships and marketing partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Of all the many worthy organizations doing good things in this world, finding the rights ones for your alignment is crucial. The best CSR sponsorships and programs make sense for your business (like cosmetics and breast cancer or heart disease organizations; or sports apparel and game sponsorships… or even Paula Deen and diabetes! Whatever disconnect there seems to be between her sweet, fried recipes and diabetes, she now has an opportunity to inspire a different way of eating and cooking, if she chooses, among her fans.) 

Effective sponsor partners are:
  • Respected and established
  • Board of Directors and Executive teams are experts, have a track record in the cause and organization
  • Financials are stable
  • Have a donor and supporter base
  • Are able to attract funds and additional supporters
  • Share your corporate values
  • Provide access to desired markets and audiences
  • Are sponsor-savvy and friendly
  • Are desirably located (among your key audiences and business geographies)
If you choose wisely, your partner organization can offer you the following benefits:
  •  Credibility of the organization enhances your credibility
  • Provide opportunities to learn from the experts about your cause
  • Build a network within that cause area
  • Events create visibility opportunities
  • Increases your effectiveness on behalf of the cause – CSR impact is key
  • Offer CSR and cause-related executive visibility opportunities
  • Engage your employees around events and the cause, especially via social media
  • Enhance your company’s brand, overall, if managed well

Do you know any nonprofits that fit the bill? Any that you’ve worked with successfully? Tell us about it. And remember…

People know your CSR for its IMPACT, business ALIGNMENT, stakeholder ENGAGEMENT around it and your COMMUNICATION about it.

Employees more disengaged than ever! (Manager involvement needed.)

Around Labor Day, the New York Times (Do Happier People Work Harder? By TERESA AMABILE and STEVEN KRAMER*, Sept. 3, 2011) reported that  Americans now feel worse about their jobs — and work environments — than ever before!

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ( shows that  people of all ages, and across income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations and detached from what they do. 

What a downer! And just when we thought we were getting the hang of employee engagement! Although there are companies doing a lot of effective things in this area, it seems most employees work for companies that still aren’t getting it right. Blame the economy and lack of budgets and more work spread among fewer employees.  But is it economical to cut back or back burner employees’ emotional life at work? Gallup estimates the cost of America’s disengagement crisis at a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity annually. If your company can’t afford to lose that much, it might be worth it to pay much more attention to the inner work lives of your team members… defined by the researchers as “the usually hidden perceptions, emotions and motivations that people experience as they react to and make sense of events in their workdays.”

The research shows that this inner work life has a profound impact on creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time for managers to help their teams stay happily engaged at work.  The key for managers:  be able and willing to facilitate team members’ accomplishments — by removing obstacles, providing help and acknowledging strong effort. Simply making progress in meaningful work emerged as the core element in engagement. I thought that was so interesting! Ahead of traditional incentives like raises and bonuses is the simple human need to feel important and contribute meaningfully.

So, as a manager, where do you stand in terms of offering your team members autonomy, sufficient resources and learning from problems – in order to enable progress?  What guidance and tips can you offer the rest of us? What experiences have helped you learn about engagement?

* Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Steven Kramer, an independent researcher, are the authors of “The Progress Principle.”

%d bloggers like this: