By, Lee Ellis, Guest Contributor
Abraham Lincoln has been repeatedly voted as our most popular president, probably because he achieved great results in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances. But did you ever stop to think, how did he do it? What was his secret and what are the keys to success of the “greatest leaders?” In a survey where I posed these questions to hundreds of managers and supervisors when facilitating leadership development at several large corporations, overall attributes fell into four areas of leadership – Trust, Relationships, Results, and Emotional Intelligence.
The best leaders exhibit qualities from all of these areas; however, Results and Relationships behaviors were mentioned more often than all the others. In fact, more than 85% of the population tilts toward one and struggles with the other.
What’s wrong with being out of balance? The idea of balancing results and relationships is nothing new; but if we assume that character is the foundation of leadership, then there should be an inner motivation to balance accomplishing the mission (get results) and take care of the people (build relationships). If you don’t get results, you can’t be truly successful and if you don’t take care of your people, some will quit and leave and some will quit and stay. Neither one is viable.
Identify your natural bent. How can you know and what can you do about it? Begin by examining the two columns below and deciding which list of behaviors best describes your “natural” talents.
Results Oriented Relationship Oriented
* Take charge, decisive * Encouraging, supportive
* Introverted, focused * Trusting
* High standards, task oriented * Good listener
* Challenging, speaks directly * Gives positive feedback
* Logical, organized * Concerned and caring
* Skeptical * Develops others
How do you gain a better balance? First, accept the fact that most of your strengths are natural—we are born with them and naturally out of balance. To get better, we have to change by learning some new skills (behaviors). You don’t need to give up who you are, but augment your strengths by adapting new behaviors that will make you more effective and bring you more in balance.
Results-oriented leaders need to soften up. If this is your style, just the idea of softening seems anathema; but developing good interpersonal skills is what’s needed to make you a better leader. You know it—you just don’t want to go there. For example, learning to patiently listen, really understand, and then affirm the ideas of others can feel very uncomfortable. For some, the needed skill might be learning to give specific, positive feedback. It takes intentional courage for a thick-skinned, results-oriented person to be a good leader and do these “people” things that are so important.
Relationship-oriented leaders need to toughen up. For this leadership style, learning to be more decisive and more direct in giving guidance and setting standards is the goal. Conducting difficult conversations is essential to keep the organization and individual team members moving ahead toward successful execution. It may be intimidating, so plan out what you are going to say and then courageously deliver your message.
Small changes pay big returns. No matter which side of the balance scales you’re on, adapting new behaviors on your weak side even at small levels will lead to significant improvements. The key to growth is changing your behaviors under the daily pressures of life and work; there is no other way. Achieving a better balance is worth the effort. To dive deeper on this topic, download a free copy of my Leadership Balance Case Study at www.LeadingWithHonor.com.
As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting company, Lee Ellis speaks and consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, leadership and human performance development, and succession planning. A retired USAF Colonel, his latest, award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at www.leadingwithhonor.com.