Take a look at that chart; it’s from Zenger-Folkman research and I got it from this article. It’s espousing this idea of “bold leadership” and tying it to a percentage of employees “willing to go to the extra mile.” As you can see above, if you’re higher percentile-wise as a “bold leader” (i.e. you’re better at it), you can have up to 70 percent of employees willing to go that extra mile. This makes sense: we’re all human beings (for the most part), and human beings are ultimately connected animals who seek social acceptance and comfort. When you have a boss who could give 0.5 craps about anything, you disengage. This happens all over the world, every day. It’s happened to me at least 14 times.
So what makes a “bold leader,” though?
Here are the four concepts Zenger-Folkman list:
- Drive for results
- Focus on the outside world
This is a little bit similar to “58 percent of supervisor job skills come from these four traits,” so learn ’em. But let’s break this down for a second:
Drive for results: Very buzzword-heavy, and a little bit terrifying. In the hands of a bad manager, that means “Push my people to the brink of exhaustion chasing deliverables.” That’s how most people think. That’s not actually what this means. It actually means looking at things a little differently and taking a few risks, as opposed to, you know, getting worried about your own incompetence and chasing the same goals you chased last year because you don’t want to exit your comfort zone. You ever have a manager who looks at their 2013 calendar to plan their 2014 one, and then does the same the next year? That’s not good. That means it’s all just cut-and-paste. Hard to get growth and connection from that.
Focus on the outside world: They use the word “synergy” here, which makes me want to throw my favorite childhood toys in a blender. What this actually means is … bring in best practices from your industry and other industries. This doesn’t mean “fly around to a bunch of trade shows and conferences.” You know what it means in 1 word? Learn. The essential concept is “be curious.”
Innovate: Huge buzzword at this point in business evolution, and no one really knows what it means anymore. (Line up 100 people, you’d get 77 different answers. Take that to the bank.) Basically it kind of means the same thing as (1) above, which is … pursue some new goals and try to think about things a little differently. Here’s one way you can start: get comfortable with different viewpoints.
Communicate: This is everything in my opinion, but no one cares about the idea is that “Communication is always flawed!” or “That’s a soft skill, real men eat what they kill!” This all makes me want to gag. Here’s the essential business schism that no one really talks about, right? Most companies are evaluated quarter-to-quarter, which is a quick amount of time (3 months, essentially). We have a big focus on now now now in American business. Communication, and developing relationships, and getting buy-in — those are long plays. They don’t necessarily lead to money in that quarter. Most people chase money in the quarter they’re currently in. Hence, ideas like “communication” become less of a priority, and people look for ideas that will pay immediate dividends. This is the same general psychology that is going to cause the world to perish because of climate change.
So yes, some buzzwords above … but the basic idea is, “Listen, if you want to be a bold leader? Go outside your comfort zone, take a few risks, be curious, bring back new information, and make some time to communicate.” I know your management job can seem like so much e-mail and so many meetings/deliverables, but really, make time for your people. It matters.