I believe leadership should be more human, because it paves the way for an atmosphere of trust and a culture of accountability, two absolute essentials for success.
To put it even more simply, a leader needs to be two things that are seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum: Tough, AND Nice
Nice, in the ability to nurture, coach, inspire, respect, and truly care for those you lead.
Tough, in driving hard for success, pushing metrics & measurement, setting high bars, holding people accountable, and making the tough decisions.
Here’s the thing – they aren’t incompatible at all. They are two sides of the same coin.
And here’s why: It’s the combination that produces the most employee engagement and satisfaction, by far.
Because if they trust and respect you, they will WANT you to push them harder. They will believe that the greatness you are driving for is worthy of that effort, and toil, and perhaps personal failure.
How do I know this? From my own personal experience. But that’s a pretty small sample to offer as proof, I understand.
They did a survey of nearly 161,000 employees working for 31,000 leaders, and asked them to rate their engagement, AND their leaders.
They found the top 10% in terms of their overall engagement & satisfaction, and drilled down into the management styles that produced them.
Here were the results:
8.9% of those who had tough leaders were in the top 10%
6.7% of those who had nice leaders were in the top 10%
68% of those who had both tough and nice leaders were in the top 10%
Their summary take on the data:
“Leaders with highly engaged employees know how to demand a great deal from employees, but are also seen as considerate, trusting, collaborative, and great developers of people. In our view, the lesson then is that those of you who consider yourself to be drivers should not be afraid to be the “nice guy.” And all of you aspiring nice guys should not view that as incompatable with setting demanding goals.”
They alluded to something in that summary that I view as critical to combining tough and nice – that is, overcoming the fears of being too “touchy feely”, or conversely, being disliked.
There is some “intestinal fortitude” demanded here. Despite this research, in many workplaces it’s still a “one or the other” proposition.
I can tell you this – go for it, it will be worth the resistance you may encounter. Be More Human.
As Zenger and Folkman so aptly state , “The two approaches are like the oars of a boat. Both need to be used with equal force”