Leadership

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What kind of leader are you? In the course of my career I have worked with/for the aggressive bully, the listening mentor and the wholly self-obsessed interested only in what the business can do for him (invariably a him!).

Leadership is about making choices and accepting of the consequences of them. It is about setting goals, shaping teams, getting them to perform and helping every level of the business to contribute and achieve.

Your style will influence how the company is perceived, how your managers behave and whether your employees are fully engaged.

In manufacturing environments regularly walking the shop floor is a vital part of the Owners and Senior Managers routine. You will see and hear what is going well and what is going wrong. It is easy to praise the good but much harder to motivate teams to overcome what is going wrong.

Of the three management styles above, I think the listening mentor is the one I respond to best and more importantly is the style I try to bring to any business I am running.

That does not mean being undemanding, by setting hard to reach targets, but it does mean working whatever problem faced with your teams in an open and respectful way.

Simple things can change the engrained expectation of style. An early statement of leadership change by the MBO team I led was to do away with the Directors’ car park. We changed it to our customer parking area. Soon everyone knew when a client was on site and our customers valued having their own parking area close to our reception.

We also formalised monthly briefings with HSE items at the top of the agenda. And on my walkabouts I never walked past litter without picking it up (20 acre site).

Going to see a problem, listening to the team as they talk you through what has happened and, more importantly, what they plan to do in the immediate short term to recover, will bring about team empowerment and build members’ confidence to take decisions.

As a leader you will make mistakes. No one gets all the decisions right. Few management decisions are clearly right or wrong. So when evidence shows that a wrong decision was taken, being open with your team as you revisit the issue will make for much better support as you go forward.