When I was young we used to find adventure on the new home sites at the end of our street. A big pile of dirt would quickly become a trophy centerpiece to do battle for the reigning title of "King of the Mountain."
If you've never played it before, every person tries their best to take the hill by standing on top and fighting off the onslaught of people who are now trying to push you off. It was classic fun for a group of young boys looking for a challenge.
Of course, eventually we'd either get tired of this game or someone would get hurt so we'd switch to something less aggressive, like "Follow the Leader." We'd argue over who gets to be the leader first (usually whomever was last king of the mountain) and we'd all line up behind him. The leader would then lead us through an adventure of climbing, jumping, or swinging from something, the more dangerous the better. Both games could keep us entertained for hours.
When I look back on those children's games now, I can see a metaphorical perspective on how each of those games portrays an approach some leaders use to influence their teams.
King of the Mountain
In this approach to business leadership, power is taken or a strong hierarchial authority is given to one person. The leader now rules the kingdom with strong methods of persuasion. The general idea is "I'm the leader and you're not, so you have to do what I say. You don't get to question it or tell me what to do until you get promoted above me."
Influence of this type will usually result in teams who perform well and get things done on time. However, the turnover on the team is much higher. In other words, this leader achieves Compliancefrom the team or possibly... conflict. This team gets things done but they don't always feel very positive about it.
Methods used by these leaders are heavy-handed:
- Coercion- The tactics used here could easily be identified as intimidation. Knowing he is in a position of authority, he exercises his power to intimidate others into getting something done. "Why should you do it? Because it's your job. So, quit your whining about it and just do it!"
- Consequence- Using a negative term here, you would call this a threat, plain and simple. You do it or else! A manager might lean on a team to get action by telling them about the consequence of not doing it. "If you don't get this done by Friday at 5, I'll be forced to write you up."
- Contract- This is when someone uses a legal contract to get what they want. Contracts serve a purpose, but when you allow all goodwill to be eroded by following the letter of the law instead of the spirit, you will get your way, but at the expense of the relationship. "According to the Work for Hire Agreement we have with you, you are liable for the entire cost overrun. We won't pay that."
Follow the Leader
This game only works if the followers actually follow the leader. If no one follows, as John C. Maxwell says, you're just taking a walk! When we played this game, no one was making us follow. We actually wantedto follow. If a leader gets the team to follow because they want to follow, she's achieving a different type of result called commitment. This is where your team is getting things done and they have positive feelings about doing it.
To exercise this type of authority with your team, the leader has usually earned it. In other words, the trust, empathy, competence has earned a higher level of credibility for the leader. The team knows she cares about them and their success. The tasks are tied to a greater purpose.
Methods used by these leaders inspire long-term movement:
- Inspiration- This is best done through effective narratives and storytelling. Leaders who use this method get their team to focus on the purpose and the Whyfor what they do.
- Relational- This method of influence is based on strong ties of credibility and trust. As we all know, building a strong level of trust takes time to develop. When teams trust that a leader is honest, wants the best for them, and has a high degree of competence, the team wants to follow.
- Exchange- We all work for our wages. This is the simple example of the exchange influence. On top of salary, the leaders who instill the strongest positive feelings with exchange will offer something the team values even more than money. It could be a team party, a day off from work, small token or gift, or more of the leader's time.
As leaders, we all want commitment from our teams but we know that takes time and is not always possible. So when something needs to get done and there is no time, we may settle for compliance. But the leaders with the most successful teams know the strong positive feelings will outperform the negatively driven teams in the long run.
I'm ready to follow the leader... who's gonna step up?
Will it be you?
iSpeak teaches workshops on Professional Selling to help sales leaders gather the most important data and then use that information to create the right message. Are your sales presentations closing eyelids or deals?
Russ Peterson Jr. is the co-founder and Managing Director of iSpeak, Inc. - An award-winning professional development training company. Russ is a speaker, international trainer, and published authoron Professional Sales Communication and Business Communication. He delivers workshops, keynotes, and personal communication coaching services to business professionals in the US and around the world. His leadership blog assists leaders in giving voice to their vision. You can connect with Russ directly through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.