Leadership - Positives & Negatives

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by mscriv, Jan 21, 2016.

  1. mscriv macrumors 601

    mscriv

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2008
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    #1
    I just started a new job. My position is on the Director level and with that comes supervision and leadership responsibilities. I have about 11 direct reports at this point, but we are expanding in the next year and that number could easily grow to 25+ staff with possible supervisors hired under me to add a level of middle management. This is not my first role with supervisory responsibilities as I've been in leadership previously in employment, volunteer, ministry, and various social/recreational positions. However, this new opportunity has given me the chance to do some self-reflection regarding my leadership skills.

    With that being said, I thought it would be a great conversation to have here at MR. I know we have a lot of diverse folks with varying occupations, skill sets, motivations, etc. etc.

    So, in your experience...

    - What makes a great leader?
    - What makes a poor leader?
    - What qualities or characteristics have you appreciated most in past leaders with which you have worked?
    - What qualities or characteristics have been negatives in past leaders with which you have worked?
    - If you are in a leadership role, what practices, skills, or attitudes do you really strive to consistently apply?
    - If you are in a leadership role, what practices, skills, or attitudes do you avoid?

    I look forward to your input and thoughts... Thanks.
     
  2. Algus macrumors regular

    Algus

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Location:
    Arizona
    #2
    Gotta listen to what your staff has to say, especially the real grunts. Even if you've done their job previously, they're in the trenches and dealing with it every day.

    It really burned me when my manager wouldn't listen to me, especially if he had not been directly involved in whatever the issue was previously. Now that I supervise, I try to listen and take suggestions. Often what my staff suggests will work just as well as how I want to do something but they'll be more motivated since I went with their suggestion. Of course, I don't mind something taking a little longer either if they remain motivated and morale stays up, heh.

    I try to be flexible (life happens, work isn't #1 priority for everyone) and give second chances. I don't like to be punitive if discipline issues crop up, especially if it was a mistake or error in judgement vs. simple slacking off.

    Most important, be willing to admit you are wrong or have made a mistake. No one likes a supervisor that thinks they're God's gift to the job and can do no wrong. I once worked with a dreadfully tedious assistant manager who, upon taking his new position, announced, "I know pretty much everything there is to know." Well, he didn't and we started losing money because he was not doing cash pulls from the registers accurately. Don't be the guy that thinks he knows everything and you'll do fine :)
     
  3. thewap, Jan 21, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016

    thewap macrumors demi-god

    thewap

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2012
    #3
    - What makes a great leader?
    A leader is only as great as the team he creates or inspires.

    - What makes a poor leader?
    a narcissist.

    - What qualities or characteristics have you appreciated most in past leaders with which you have worked?
    respect, fairness, and leading by example, self assuredness.

    - What qualities or characteristics have been negatives in past leaders with which you have worked?
    Leaders who pick on subordinates, demean or degrade.

    - If you are in a leadership role, what practices, skills, or attitudes do you really strive to consistently apply?
    Clear and concise directives and objectives, deadlines, and a policy of employees *asking* if in doubt, or speaking up if in doubt of my methodology. As for employees, to err is human, what matters is how they fix a mistake that shows their capability.

    - If you are in a leadership role, what practices, skills, or attitudes do you avoid?
    favoritism.
     
  4. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2008
    Location:
    Flea Bottom, King's Landing
    #4
    Charisma. A leader needs a LOT of charisma. That's something I lack. I've been told I have the smarts and skills to be a good leader, but I lack charisma. My underlings will do as I say, but they won't be happy about it. Worthless peons.;)

    I have fielded many great ideas for the company, but they get brushed aside.:mad: A coworker with oodles of charisma restates MY idea, but with a lot more polish. The way they heap praises on him, you'd think the man could walk on water.o_O I guess I'm well suited to the role of XO and not CO. I can the trains running on time, but the peons are gonna hate me.:p
     
  5. fitshaced macrumors 68000

    fitshaced

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2011
    #5
    As open as possible. Inform their team as soon as possible of anything that can be shared to them. Secrecy is very bad. Some leaders believe they harvest power out of the information they drip feed to their staff.

    Protect their team from other parts of the business. When things go wrong, no finger pointing. Also, when things go good, advertise it to the business.

    Have a close eye over individuals performances so that when performance reviews happen, they don't feel like they're talking to a stranger.

    Enable them to use their skills and develop new skills. Dead wood on a team brings the team down in ability and morale.
     
  6. Scepticalscribe, Jan 21, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #6
    There are different types of leaders, who lead in different ways. Finding the version of leadership that accords best with your own temperament will probably be somewhat psychologically easier.

    Having said that, I think that both @Algus and @thewap have made some excellent points.

    Fair-mindedness, and a willingness to seek advice and suggestions from subordinates, are always a good sign in a superior, and are signs of a good leader.

    However, seeking advice is one thing, and acting on it another, but it is also important to recognise their contribution (publicly if possible), by saying something along the lines of - "We're thinking of doing 'x' and we/I have John/Joan here to thank for putting us on the right track on this/bringing it to our attention…."

    Praise for something well done is important - as it implies recognition, and everybody likes their effort, or input or work to be acknowledged and recognised.

    Good leaders are not afraid to delegate - they don't need to be micromanagers. I personally loathe micromanaging managers.

    As a leader, you can trust someone qualified & experienced to do their job - they may need pointers, 'this is the task, and this is what I'd like you to focus on in particular' and suggested deadlines 'this is when we need to have it done by'. Likewise, a good leader should not be - or should not feel - threatened by a very talented subordinate. Recognise the experience and expertise that others can bring to their jobs, and leave them to get on with it.

    As @Algus has already said, don't be afraid to admit, apologise for and own your mistakes.

    Done promptly, briskly, and clearly, and done in a way which ensures that the mistake won't be repeated tends to win respect from colleagues and subordinates.

    I recall a time - just over two decades ago - when I was grading the first year and second year papers of a Full Professor - who was the Head of Dept, an extraordinarily accomplished and internationally respected scholar - for whom/under whom I worked at the time.

    The second year grades were deplorable, - the students were all scoring well below - some more than a full grade below - what I expected from them. I concluded that the structure of the paper was unfair - or had been poorly structured - and sought a formal meeting with the prof to discuss the pattern of marks that were emerging.

    After discussing it with me - and one other colleague who had come to the same conclusion - and examining the data I presented the prof briskly announced that this was his fault and his mistake, apologised to us, and proceeded to instruct the pair of us to ignore the final question completely (every student had failed it for lack of time) and to instead, grade, or mark, the paper as though it had been set asking that three questions rather than four were to be answered.

    And @thewap makes an excellent point about public humiliation: Don't do it except as a nuclear option. Nobody ever forgets (or forgives) an unfair - or demeaning, or belittling, - public dressing down. Don't bully, or humiliate, or demean, or belittle your staff, in public or in private. However, if they are right - when criticised from outside - be prepared to back them.

    As to @Mousse's point about charisma, I have to say that I am very wary of it, and am wary of the sort of workplace that elevates the importance of 'charisma' at the expense of other less dramatic and more mundane virtues.

    While I am perfectly aware that extroversion and charisma are viewed in a very positive light in the US, I still retain a soupçon of reserve towards the the idea of an exceptionally charismatic leader.

    Yes, charismatic leaders do 'inspire' followers. However, in my experience, it can be difficult to ensure sufficient oversight of a charismatic leader, and it can be uncomfortable - such is their charisma, confidence, and support - to have to point out that what they are suggesting is tosh. This is because charismatic leaders can often get their way very, very easily, and - often have to work less hard for goals - such as persuading others of the intrinsic merits of their point of view. People wish to be associated with them, and often, what they propose may not have been subjected to sufficient scrutiny. For charismatic leaders can develop large egos, and moreover, can often delude themselves - and persuade others to follow them - unless there are constraints on their influence.

    Anyway, a good leader respects themselves - and makes that clear by their conduct and demeanour and respects others.
     
  7. nj-morris macrumors 68000

    nj-morris

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2014
    Location:
    UK
    #7
    Make sure that you are somebody who sticks out in ones mind. Be somebody who one would be happy to look up to and follow your example. I have to reiterate what Mousse said, charisma plays a big part in it. Also co-operation is a key element, as well as being understanding. And there's the ones that really go without saying, such as judgement and common sense. You don't have to have all of these things, but all of them can be used strongly to your advantage.
    I have to disclaim though, that as of yet, my experience is entirely objective. It's something that I think about and work on though.
     
  8. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Location:
    Always a day away
    #8
    A great leader is one who makes the people around him more productive workers. A poor leader is one whose workers would be more productive without him.
     
  9. LizKat macrumors 68040

    LizKat

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2004
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    #9
    That is so, so very important. One day our whole team including the boss had gone to a conference with an in-house client group about a project we were doing for that group. We had experienced some difficulties with specs while building a prototype so our boss and the boss of the in-house clients decided to put the two groups together for an afternoon of clarifications and adjustments. We were looking forward to it because we were excited about the project.

    Right so we got there and ten minutes into the meeting, one of us asked a question that was something like "OK so when we made the prototype for this kind of input (gesturing to a slide of the thing) we followed the spec about the data relationships but when we got to the report summary page (slide of spec for the thing) we found that there was no way to get that middle section there... because there's no hook in the data to let us aggregate what's shown there. So we wondered if you'd like to help us figure another way to get to that, or let us know if we somehow missed something."

    We were a fairly large group in all, so had agreed to raise hands before speaking. Several hands went up and just as a selected person opened his mouth to say something, the boss of the other team just slammed her fist down on the table really hard and started this amazing rant.

    "Sheila! This is you, right? Every time with the details, the details..."

    It was so embarrassing... she was publicly, well outside her department anyway, slamming people of her own team for not giving our team what we needed. This even if maybe we had not asked enough, or the right, questions during spec process, who even knew yet.

    She said stuff to another person, one of their lead analysts like "And YOU.. where were YOU before this thing went out, I can't believe you signed off on this...."

    (i was wondering didn't she have to sign off too?)

    After about 90 seconds my boss couldn't take it. She closed her notebooks and stood up and made a "stand up" gesture to us, so we did. She interrupted the other boss and said this: "We're going to leave now and re-schedule. What you are doing now is none of our business so we don't belong here. I do have to say to your team that we were not here to find fault with anyone, but to focus on how to advance this project. OK guys, let's go."

    We marched out of there to complete silence. I never forgot how horrible that was and we weren't even the people being shelled by that other boss!

    And as it turned out, our problem with that particular question that was being asked... that glitch was a misunderstanding acquired by a member of our own team. So that boss was generically berating her team in front of us "strangers" for absolutely no reason at that moment.

    @mscriv, good luck to you in your next adventure! Keep meetings focused on the work at hand, remember "time and place" and strive to keep corrections where they belong. Lose the "always" and "nevers" when someone drops a ball; it makes us feel like we're seven years old and left a cereal bowl on the breakfast table again. :)
     
  10. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #10
    Again, models of leadership differ.

    Different cultures will prefer different styles of leader - the more extroverted, 'alpha' style leadership admired in the US is less admired in Europe, and is viewed with something akin to horror in parts of Asia where consensus and demonstrations of public respect matter more.

    Perhaps it is because I have been brought up in the "British Isles" culture, but bosses who politely ask (rather than bark an order), who can disguise a command as a request, are bosses I tend to prefer. Likewise, expressions gratitude (not just simply praise), always adds to a more congenial atmosphere. Never underestimate the power of a genuinely felt 'thank you' from a superior to a subordinate.

    Try not to allow the (inevitable) sub-managers who report to you act as gate-keepers. Yes, they will filter out much of the unwanted and time-consuming nuisance stuff, and will be the first port of call for more junior staff most of the time, but try to ensure that the direct channels of communication with more junior staff remain open, and that they feel free to raise concerns without retribution should they feel that need arise.

    Gate-keepers can acquire a lot of power, and life has taught us that some people may abuse this. Try not to be the person who doesn't know how their staff really feel and think because access has been blocked off by middle-management.

    Likewise, it is an old truism that people far more often leave bad managers than leave bad jobs. Keep an eye on the managers who report to you, and try to ensure that the work culture that you create - a positive, supportive one - is replicated by them. Likewise, they, too, must feel free to report honestly - encourage your subordinates to 'speak truth to power', rather than cultivating a culture where what is said and reported is what the bosses wish to hear because that way lies the path to promotion, bonuses, and positive evaluations and feedback.
     
  11. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Location:
    Always a day away
    #11
    I've been in the workforce in the US for nearly thirty years and I've never had a boss or supervisor who barked orders to me or to anyone else. Maybe in the military, but I've never experienced it myself.
     
  12. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #12
    Unfortunately, I have.

    Actually, I'm not from the US, but - over the best part of a quarter of a century, I have had superb bosses, pretty good bosses, a few I was indifferent towards, and two perfectly dreadful bosses. These were a pair of individuals who could have been described as bullies, - without denying the power of the word - and, as it happened, neither were in the military.

    One was male, and was an academic, and one was female - a senior public servant. Both mistook a culture of barked orders for decisive leadership. Not only did they bark orders, but both played and cultivated favourites, and treated the staff whom they disliked disgracefully. Neither liked any expression of dissent or disagreement - it was likely to provoke screaming matches. Rates of sick leave soared, as did resignations, departures, and staff turnover.

    I suppose a rough rule of thumb is to try to emulate and imitate the behaviour of those bosses, or superiors, whose behaviour impressed you and whom you respected, and try to to replicate the patterns of behaviour indulged in by those who thought a position of authority allowed for an abuse of power.
     
  13. Huntn, Jan 22, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016

    Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

    Joined:
    May 5, 2008
    Location:
    The Misty Mountains
    #13
    Although you may be in the position of making a final decision, don't surround yourself with yes men, encourage alternative opinions regarding pros and cons of some leadership choices, such as finding a solution to a problem, or a better way to do things, but make it clear the final decision is yours to make.

    Having spent 10 years in the US Navy, I only remember being barked at basic training, which was a test. Fortunately I missed an active conflict, which I would imagine more opportunities for orders to be barked. In a civilian job, my impression is that mostly, barked orders are out of place.
     

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