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Striking The Balance: The Traits Of Effective Leader

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ByMohd Azad Jasmi
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In today’s world of management and leadership, bosses often find themselves grappling with a delicate balance between two seemingly contradictory qualities: being strict and assertive while also being approachable and considerate. Striking this balance requires finesse, as bosses need to navigate the fine line between enforcing discipline and fostering a positive work environment. This article delves into the importance of maintaining this duality and provides suggestions and examples for embracing both traits effectively.

Finding the right recipe between various traits and values is an essential pursuit for leaders in the dynamic landscape of organizational management. Whether overseeing a company, a government entity, a government-linked enterprise, a private organization, or even a specific unit or department, the acquisition of diverse skills is paramount. Leadership is an evolving art, demanding a continuous refinement of abilities.

The discourse of whether leaders are innately endowed or can be molded through deliberate effort has long been debated. While there’s a prevailing notion that leadership is an inherent quality, my school of thought aligns more closely with the belief that leadership, especially effective leadership, can indeed be nurtured and developed.

As we navigate through this article, we’ll explore the nitty-gritty values that shape exemplary leaders, while acknowledging that leadership is an ongoing journey of growth and learning.

Earlier today, I contemplated the idea of composing an article that goes down into the intricacies of leadership traits. Specifically, I aimed to dissect the delicate formula that effective leaders maintain between authoritative firmness, diplomatic finesse, empathetic engagement, and a measured degree of leniency.

Coincidentally, I received messages from a respected colleague, Nik Jay, whose identity I have abbreviated for brevity. Nik Jay is a tall, not-so-dark, and handsome individual who serves as a fund manager. Our first meeting took place in Mecca back in 2012, and our friendship has endured since then, making us good friends ever since.

Our professional association has been longstanding, and during our exchange, I shared my intention of crafting an article that elucidates the multifaceted nature of leadership attributes. Subsequently, our dialogue revolved around the content of the aforementioned article I had previously authored. It is pertinent to note that Nik J occupies a position of prominence within a notable government-linked corporation (GLC), possessing a profound understanding of capital markets and fund management. Presently, he is tasked with overseeing substantial governmental capital initiatives. Considering Nik J’s stature as an experienced leader himself, his viewpoint on leadership traits carries substantial weightage.

Upon a suggestion from Nik, I was inspired to write, particularly focusing on the concept of fear-based leadership and the motivations behind its implementation. Nik’s recommendation prompted me to contemplate and explore these intriguing facets within the leadership landscape.

Furthermore, I recounted an episode from my tenure when I was engaged in demanding responsibilities within the confines of Rayong,  spanning the timeframe from 2003 to 2005. During this period at General Motors, my immediate supervisor, the Executive Director held a significant role as an American professional, while my supervisory chain included an Indian counterpart.

Additionally, my experience in Copenhagen from 2007 to 2009 presented an encounter with a prominent Scandinavian executive who assumed the role of President. Thus, I propose the incorporation of these personal narratives to impart a distinctive and nuanced dimension to my forthcoming article.

1. The Need for Strictness

a) Maintaining Standards: Effective bosses need to uphold company standards and expectations. This requires being strict to ensure that all team members adhere to established guidelines, which in turn contributes to consistency and quality in output.

b) Meeting Deadlines: Being strict about deadlines ensures that projects are completed promptly. This trait prevents complacency and encourages employees to manage their time more effectively.

Example: A project manager sets clear deadlines and communicates the consequences of missing them. This approach motivates the team to stay on track and deliver results promptly.

2. The Importance of Empathy

a) Building Relationships: An empathetic boss fosters a sense of belonging and rapport within the team. By showing understanding and genuine interest in employees’ well-being, bosses can create a positive work culture.

b) Supporting Growth: Empathy allows bosses to identify employees’ strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. Providing the necessary guidance and support helps employees grow professionally and personally.

Example: During a difficult time, an empathetic boss allows an employee to take a temporary break to handle personal matters, demonstrating compassion while maintaining team morale.

3. Striking the Balance

a) Clear Communication: Bosses should communicate expectations firmly but respectfully. Explaining the reasons behind certain decisions can help employees understand the need for strictness.

b) Feedback and Recognition: Providing constructive feedback helps employees improve while recognizing their achievements boosts morale. These gestures can coexist with a firm approach.

Example: A boss offers praise for a job well done but also discusses areas that need improvement. This approach underscores the boss’s commitment to both employee growth and performance excellence.

Some bosses choose to instill a certain level of fear or apprehension among their employees as a management tactic.

Reasons Why Bosses Instill Fear?

While this approach may not be universally effective or favored. there are reasons why some bosses opt for it:

Fear can lead to greater compliance with rules and company policies. Employees concerned about potential consequences may be more likely to follow instructions and adhere to standards.

Meeting Deadlines: Fear of disappointing the boss can motivate employees to work harder and meet deadlines. The urgency created by a fear-based approach might push employees to complete tasks on time.

Performance Pressure: Some bosses believe that a certain level of fear can drive employees to perform at their best. The fear of negative outcomes can push individuals to go beyond their comfort zones.

Controlling Behavior: Instilling fear can give bosses a sense of control over their team. Apprehensive employees are less likely to challenge decisions or question authority.

Minimizing Errors: Fear of criticism or punishment can lead employees to be more cautious and attentive, potentially resulting in fewer mistakes or errors.

It’s important to note, however, that while fear might yield short-term compliance, it can negatively affect employee morale, job satisfaction, and creativity. A constant atmosphere of fear can lead to stress, burnout, and even high turnover rates. The most effective leadership style is one that balances accountability and discipline with empathy and support, fostering a positive work environment that promotes both individual and organizational growth.

I would further add some suggestions for managers, CEOs, and heads of departments to enhance their leadership skills and qualities:

1. Effective Communication:

  • Suggestion: Foster open and transparent communication with your team members. Encourage feedback and actively listen to their concerns.
  • Example: Instead of making decisions in isolation, involve your team in discussions to gather diverse perspectives before arriving at conclusions.

2. Empathy and Understanding:

  • Suggestion: Show empathy towards your team members’ needs, both personal and professional. Understand their challenges and provide support.
  • Example: If an employee is going through a difficult time, offer flexible working arrangements or additional support to help them manage their responsibilities.

3. Delegation and Trust:

  • Suggestion: Delegate tasks based on team members’ strengths and capabilities. Trust your team to take ownership of their responsibilities.
  • Example: Delegate a project to a capable team member and provide them with the autonomy to make decisions while offering guidance when needed.

4. Continuous Learning:

  • Suggestion: Invest in your own development as a leader. Attend workshops, seminars, and engage in learning opportunities to stay updated.
  • Example: Enroll in leadership courses to refine your skills and gain new insights that can be applied in your role.

5. Recognition and Appreciation:

  • Suggestion: Acknowledge and appreciate your team members’ contributions. Celebrate successes, both big and small.
  • Example: Implement an employee recognition program that highlights outstanding performance and encourages a positive work environment.

6. Conflict Resolution:

  • Suggestion: Develop effective conflict resolution skills. Address conflicts promptly, fairly, and with professionalism.
  • Example: When two team members have a disagreement, mediate the conversation and guide them towards finding a mutually agreeable solution.

7. Vision and Direction:

  • Suggestion: Clearly communicate the organization’s vision and goals to your team. Provide direction and guidance on how their efforts contribute to the bigger picture.
  • Example: Share the company’s long-term objectives and explain how each department’s initiatives align with achieving those goals.

8. Flexibility and Adaptability:

  • Suggestion: Embrace change and be adaptable to evolving circumstances. Encourage your team to be agile in their approaches.
  • Example: If a project’s scope changes due to external factors, guide your team in adapting their strategies while maintaining focus on the end goal.

9. Work-Life Balance Advocacy:

  • Suggestion: Promote a healthy work-life balance within your team. Encourage taking breaks and using vacation time.
  • Example: Set the example by taking breaks yourself and ensuring your team members don’t feel pressured to constantly work overtime.

10. Empowerment and Growth:

  • Suggestion: Provide opportunities for skill development and career growth. Empower your team members to take on new challenges.
  • Example: Offer mentorship to junior employees and encourage them to propose innovative solutions to existing challenges.

By embodying these suggestions, leaders can create a positive and productive work environment, fostering loyalty, growth, and collaboration within their teams.

Some examples of how bosses can strike a balance between urgency and diplomacy when approaching their staff

Project Deadline:

Boss: Hi [Employee’s Name], I hope you’re well. I wanted to discuss the project we’re working on. The deadline is approaching, and I know we need to give it our all. Your expertise is crucial to meeting our goals. How can we collaborate to ensure we stay on track while maintaining the quality we’re known for?

Task Prioritization:

Boss: Hello [Employee’s Name], your skills have been vital to our operations. There’s a new task that requires your attention due to its urgency. I understand your current workload, and I’m confident in your ability to manage it effectively. Can we discuss how we can redistribute tasks to accommodate this new priority without causing unnecessary stress?

Challenging Situation:

Boss: Good morning, [Employee’s Name]. I want to address a situation that needs our immediate attention. Your insight and expertise are incredibly valuable. I’d appreciate your input on how we can handle this efficiently while considering the impact on the team. Your perspective matters, and I trust your judgment in finding the best way forward.

Team Meeting Preparation:

Boss: Hi [Employee’s Name], I hope you’re having a productive day. Our upcoming team meeting is essential, and I value your contribution. Could you please prioritize preparing the data we need for the presentation? I understand you have ongoing tasks, so let’s work together to manage your workload while ensuring we’re well-prepared for the meeting.

Unexpected Challenge:

Boss: Hello [Employee’s Name], a challenge has arisen that requires swift action. I appreciate your dedication and problem-solving skills. I’m aware you have ongoing commitments, and I want to discuss how we can address this issue without overburdening you. Your expertise is crucial, and I believe we can navigate this situation successfully together.

Client Expectations:

Boss: Hi [Employee’s Name], I trust you’re doing well. I wanted to bring to your attention a request from our client that requires urgent attention. Your relationship-building skills have a significant impact, and I’m confident you can manage this effectively. Let’s discuss how we can meet their expectations without compromising our other commitments.

The key is to acknowledge the urgency while also acknowledging the employee’s workload and expertise. By involving them in finding solutions and maintaining an open line of communication, bosses can effectively convey urgency without causing undue stress.

How to communicate the urgency of tasks and the need for staff to stay back, while still being diplomatic and respectful

1. Project Deadline:

Boss: Hello [Employee’s Name], I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to discuss the project we’re handling. Unfortunately, we’ve encountered a few unexpected challenges, and we need to ensure we meet the deadline. I understand it’s short notice, but your expertise is crucial. If possible, could you consider staying back for a bit to work on this? We’ll make sure to compensate for your extra effort.

2. Last-Minute Opportunity:

Boss: Hi [Employee’s Name], I appreciate your hard work on the ongoing tasks. A last-minute opportunity has come up that aligns perfectly with your skills. I know it’s a bit sudden, but the timing is critical. If you could stay back for a while to help us seize this chance, it would be greatly appreciated. We’ll make sure you’re compensated for your dedication.

3. Unexpected Situation:

Boss: Good day, [Employee’s Name]. There’s an unexpected situation that has arisen, and it requires immediate attention. Your expertise in handling such scenarios is invaluable. I understand this might mean staying back, and I truly appreciate your commitment. Let’s work together to manage the workload effectively while ensuring we resolve this matter promptly.

4. Client’s Urgent Request:

Boss: Hello [Employee’s Name], I trust you’re doing well. Our client has put forth an urgent request that needs your attention. Your ability to handle these situations is remarkable, and we’re counting on you. If you could stay back for a while to address this, it would greatly assist us in maintaining our client’s satisfaction. Your effort won’t go unnoticed.

5. Critical Team Meeting:

Boss: Hi [Employee’s Name], I hope your day is going smoothly. We have a critical team meeting tomorrow morning, and I wanted to ensure we’re fully prepared. I understand this might mean a bit of extra time today to finalize the presentation. If you’re able to stay back for a short while, it would contribute significantly to our readiness. We’ll ensure you’re compensated accordingly.

Remember to acknowledge the staff’s effort and dedication, and to express gratitude for their willingness to go the extra mile. Compensation, whether in terms of time or recognition, should be considered to ensure fairness and motivation.

Conclusion

The art of striking the delicate balance between diplomacy and urgency emerges as a defining trait of exceptional leaders. This harmony, akin to a well-orchestrated symphony, requires the leader to wield the baton of diplomacy to foster collaboration, respect, and empathy within their teams. Simultaneously, they must harness the crescendo of urgency to propel their vision forward, igniting the flames of determination and driving results.

As we reflect on this art, we are reminded that diplomacy does not equate to indecision, nor does urgency necessitate recklessness. It is through the amalgamation of these qualities that leaders craft an environment where challenges are met with thoughtful discourse, innovation flourishes, and deadlines are met with unwavering dedication.

In the development of leadership style, each thread of diplomacy weaves a fabric of mutual respect, while every strand of urgency stitches a quilt of dynamic progress. As we embrace the nuances of these two forces, we cultivate leaders who adeptly navigate the contours of complexity, inspiring their teams with purpose, and guiding their organizations toward triumphant horizons.

In essence, the style of leadership lies not in the duality of diplomacy and urgency, but in the elegant dance of their convergence. It is here, at the crossroads of compassion and determination, that leaders mold their legacy – one that beckons teams to strive for greatness, as they tread the path of progress with the harmonious rhythm of purposeful diplomacy and resolute urgency.

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