As usual I was busy working at office, and suddenly I get a call from the executive assistant of a top management official. I said “sure. That time works for me” and put down the phone wondering why would that top management official wanted to meet me. I quickly made a summary of my experience and sent it to the exec assistant. Finally, the day has come and I went inside the room. I was greeted by a smiling face and we had a general discussion for about 35 minutes. That’s when the question has come “so Kiran, tell me what kind of managers have you worked with in your career so far. I mean, what in their leadership style has really attracted you”. I have never thought of that before and least of all prepared. Most of us work in an environment where we constantly crib, complain, and blame our managers for what they are not and comfortably ignore to see what they really are. I did answer the question quite clumsily though :). But, I thought let me really gather the thoughts and present it in a structured way.
So here are a few leadership styles that I really liked from the managers I worked with. I am saving the names for myself :). Good news is that this will not have the general management jargons that you read in books 🙂
Leave it to the Expert: A leader needn’t have to be an expert in all the areas that she handles, but knowledge and understanding is desirable. It is sometimes sad to see that ego drives these managers to behave as experts and drive the rest of the team nuts. The leader I worked with clearly accepted this difference and hired an expert and left it to the expert and focused on getting closer to the set vision. Otherwise, what is the point in having experts in the team? But the best part I liked was when this manager started to learn from the expert. Experience + openness to learn + quick learning make people positively contribute.
Take the Bullet: Everyone makes mistakes. Fools repeat the same mistake and great people make different ones. Mistakes don’t make people great, the ability to learn separates them from the normal. There is one other thing that helps them in the path. You can afford to make mistakes only if your next few generations are insured with a gold mine or if you have a great manager who can bat for you when going is not good. This particular leadership style really amazed me. I was told by one of my managers “Its absolutely ok to make mistakes. I will take the bullet (cover you) as long as you can come back to me with the mistakes and the improvement plan”. That strongly communicated three loud messages “Unconditional support”, “Trust”, and “Empowerment”. And yes, this manager made it to my list as she followed what she said.
Manager Online – Friend Offline: I have seen several managers who just cannot do this. They behave the same grumpy way both at work and outside of it. Drawing a line between these two is really important for a manager to get comfortable with the team and vice-versa. I had the good opportunity to work with this manager who really taught me two things. 1) The importance of knowing the personal side of the team (not too personal), 2) Knowing the difference of who to do this with. There is always a danger of some immature (nothing to do with age) team member taking advantage.
There are a few other aspects that made an impression on me. I will try and cover them in my next blog. Meanwhile, I am really eager to hear from you on some of the good experiences you had.