Compare Nelson Mandela and Alan Sugar: humility and inspiration versus charismatic delivery and strong opinions. Who would you consider to be the better leader?
Though the majority of people reading this would assume Mandela’s model to be perfect for the workplace, it may surprise you that the stereotypical style of leadership – the confident, almost ‘pushy’ approach – is still one favoured by many. Labelled as ‘charismatic’, the talkative, extrovert manager is one likely to be more successful. Is this just down to the one shouting the loudest gets heard?
Humility: the key?
Humility is increasingly recognised as key to emotional intelligence and a key leadership factor but the coaching goals I’m often asked to implement still centre on stereotypical managerial styles. For example, in one organisation I did leadership coaching with recently, I was asked to help develop such extrovert traits with my clients, as these typically led to promotion within that organisation Yet the clients fulfilled their leadership roles in a quiet, unassuming way, that often involved asking questions and listening to the answers, rather than knowing all the answers in the first place.
For me, this posed a dilemma. In all effective coaching – not just leadership coaching – it’s important to pay close attention to the system, and in this particular system, humility isn’t highly rated. Was I to challenge the client, or the goalposts, or either at all?
Surely, rather than enforce the paradox, is it not better to aim for confidence and power at the same time as humility and approachability? Could Mother Teresa display such compassion if she’d been an extrovert? Did having humility help her leadership and encourage people to follow her more than if she’d been charismatic and driven?
I encourage my leadership coaching clients from the outset to look at the following video, ‘The Power of Quiet’. It doesn’t champion extroverts over introverts or vice versa; instead, it clearly demonstrates how both personality types are necessary.
A good team contains all types…
Meredith Belbin and many others believe that the most successful teams include all the different personality types. That’s perhaps understandable but we’re still back to the same question: which ‘type’ should lead?
Humility shows humanity; no one is perfect and that includes leaders – even people like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela had their faults. A manager recognising his shortcomings and asking for help doesn’t undermine a position of power; instead, it can help others to make decisions and assume responsibility. This isn’t a sign that control is being lost: in fact, quite the opposite. Discipline and direction will still be needed and respect will be an additional positive – far more than is commonly given to a manager who continually barks orders.
Too much humility, perhaps not surprisingly, can be detrimental. If you put other before yourself too much, you’ll be overlooked when it comes to promotion. Few will believe in the leader who doesn’t inspire or demonstrate any greatness themselves.
Yin and Yang
It appears, therefore, to be a question of balance. Like Susan Cain suggests in the short video, yin and yang should be equal and aligned. The extroverts need the introverts to create strong, stable ideas. Without extroverts, however great an idea/concept/invention, the world would never get to hear of it.
Do you need leadership coaching to create or restore such a balance, as a leader, or would you like to complete an emotional intelligence psychometric questionnaire? Contact me on 01302 220221.