Self Coach: Leadership Styles

Would you describe your leadership style as more 'push' than 'pull'? Or is it the other way round? The twin levers of successful leadership are support and challenge, says MT columnist Miranda Kennett.

by Miranda Kennett
Last Updated: 30 Jan 2014



Listening, coaching Suiting tasks to skills Promoting harmony

Being process focused

Emphasising development Encouraging innovation

Telling, directing Setting stretch targets Demanding performance

Being task focused

Focusing on achievement Being intolerant of failure

One is not better than the other, but we need to be able to operate in both modes in order to succeed. In which quadrant do you tend to be?

If you naturally tend to provide high support but little challenge (top left), the people you lead will probably enjoy the happy atmosphere and working conditions you provide, and your interest in them as human beings. The snag is that you risk breeding mediocrity. You probably don't manage underperformance, wishing to avoid conflict, which irritates potential high performers, who see slackers getting away with it. If people aren't ever confronted with their shortcomings and there are no stretching targets, then staff who would otherwise be prepared to go the extra mile will become demotivated and leave.

Conversely, if your default style is high challenge (bottom right) with not much support, you will create a 'just do it' culture. Though the short-term results may be positive, prolonged use of pressure will produce high stress in those you lead, which can impair performance. Even the keenest workers will feel stretched on the rack, become disenchanted and leave.

Worst of all is the failure to offer much in the way of support or challenge (bottom left). Employees feel like mere cogs, with no sense that their work makes any contribution to the organisation, and no loyalty to their boss, who has abdicated his or her responsibilities.

As often with matrixes, top right is the ideal place to be, combining high support with high challenge. Leaders who can deliver this balance tend to create the best results over a sustained period.

- Miranda Kennett is an independent coach. If there's a leadership issue you'd like her to address, contact her at Follow her on Twitter @mirandajkennett.

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