Archive for November, 2009

Are You Leading in the Right Place?

I’ve always gotten great performance evaluations until taking on the management of this group, but now I’m seriously questioning my leadership abilities.

Those were Clyde’s sentiments in our coaching session to discuss his less-than-stellar 360-degree feedback report, raising concerns about his civilian leadership abilities.  His report brought to a head the fact that Clyde was in the midst of a career crisis.  Prior to assuming his current managerial role in a large government agency he had served for 25 years in the military, rising through the enlisted ranks to officer status.  He attributed his military success to an authoritarian leadership style well suited to his temperament and to his Technical – Organizer profile from his Passion Revealer assessment. In the military he was a commanding presence, adept in making decisions, enforcing regulations and demanding unquestioned compliance.

Upon retiring from the military Clyde was able to parlay his experience and technical knowledge into a civilian job managing a staff of highly educated professionals responsible for developing and delivering the training program of a huge agency. The leadership style that served Clyde so successfully in the military, however, did not translate well to the new setting. With his imposingly muscular physical presence and no-nonsense mission-oriented focus, he came across as inflexible, severely demanding, and highly intimidating. These traits resulted in conflict, reactionary behavior, and morale problems with his team.  Although he’d struggled to soften his presence and develop a more collaborative style, he was bucking against a natural authoritarian disposition hardened over years of experience.   Clyde was determined to succeed but conceded that his style had been unsuccessful in bringing out the best in this staff.

In evaluating his career dilemma Clyde faced difficult choices.  Should he continue working to transform his leadership style, move on to another setting better suited to his strengths, or just transition out of supervision altogether?  Staying with his current position was his preference, but he wasn’t sure that he could change his mode of leadership.  Furthermore, he felt that he might have so alienated his staff that gaining credibility with them could be impossible even if he changed his style.  In retrospect, Clyde realized that he should have taken better stock of his leadership assets before accepting a position that drew too heavily on his limitations and too little on his strengths.

Things to consider when you find yourself in a situation like Clyde:

  1. Know your leadership strengths and shortcomings in order to find a fit where you can capitalize upon your assets and manage your deficits.
  2. Find a better fit if your leadership assets aren’t being fully applied.
  3. If you’re performing successfully in a current situation, think carefully about jumping into a new role that moves you away from a good fit for your style.
  4. The Passion Revealer assessment in combination with the Passion Styles and Career Directions Guide can be useful in defining your leadership assets and deficits and in clarifying a best-fit situation for your style of leadership.


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