As everyone who has ever worked on a team knows, there are all kinds of leaders.
The expert leads through the strength of his experience. He tends to be tactical and reliant on what worked in the past instead of thoughtful about what might happen in the future.
The achiever leads through the strength of her performance. Meetings with her tend to be about her getting buy-in around her ideas, rather than teasing the best ideas from her team.
The catalyst leader has vision and knows how to drive his teams to innovation through passion and collaboration.
Which one of these three are you? And how can you evolve into a catalyst leader to lift your team to new heights?
According to Deb Langford, vice president and chief strategy officer for The Alliance, USC Center for Race and Equity: “In the past, most organizations were designed for efficiency and effectiveness, leading to complicated and siloed organizations. Instead of mere efficiency, successful organizations and must be designed for speed, agility and adaptability to enable them to complete and win in today’s global business environment.”
This kind of leader has the ability to change plans to match the reality of situation and to maintain productivity during transitions or periods of chaos, she said. They also communicate that to their teams with as much transparency as possible.
For example, in game two of the NBA Finals, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr had the agility and flexibility to completely change up the game plan against the Toronto Raptors with several of his top players, including MVP Kevin Durant, injured. With only a six-man bench, Golden State managed to beat Toronto 109-104 on Sunday, June 2, tying up the series going into Game 3 on Wednesday night.
Not only were his players agile, Kerr showed remarkable agility in how he configured his team in order to stay effective on the court even though his players faced a disadvantage. It’s that kind of flexibility in the face of adversity that Langford recommends leaders adopt and practice.
Agile leaders practice self-care, and allow their teams to practice that care as well. That means not sending or expecting emails from teams on weekends or before or after business hours unless exceptional circumstances are in play. It also means not encouraging unhealthy or even dangerous practices, such as texting while driving.
“Leaders say: I care enough about that you can respond when you get to the office,” said Langford. “Make sure that as a leader you are practicing self-care and then talk about it. You have to set the example. You can’t promote self-care and work-life balance if you aren’t leading yourself. Go to the mirror and say ‘how are we doing here’? You can’t lead if you’re exhausted.
“Create the success you want for yourself, you family, your business and your life.“
Catalyst leaders also set the context for their teams, helping them connect the dots between the work they’re doing and what they are trying to achieve.
They assist their companies manage their stakeholders, making sure that they are empowered and not alienated.
For example, the NBA encourages its players to speak out on issues they care about, whether that’s politics or fashion. By comparison, the NFL has not, “which is why you have this little Colin Kaepernick situation,” Langford said.
And finally, be inclusive. Don’t just hire in your own image – make sure your teams are representing multiple points of view.
“You can’t as the leader make people working for you feel uncomfortable about their decisions and their outcomes. Whether that’s politics, or just in talking around the table, you have to lead in a way in which there can be an inclusive conversation.”
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