Some time back I was having breakfast with a couple of guys that I work with in one of the organizations which I volunteer. In this organization, I have been leading a group of about nine men for about four months to set a vision for the group, decide upon our key focus areas, and lay out activities which the group will undertake for the next year. I was very pleased with how the team "gelled" and the fact that we seemed to be moving the ball forward towards meeting our vision. During breakfast, one of the guys told me that, by and large, the team was happy with me but a couple felt that I came in too heavy-handed and authoritarian. Blech.
Have you ever worked on a puzzle where you were on the hunt for one piece to finish up part of the puzzle? You pick up a piece that you think will fit and try to push it into place. Sometimes the colors don't quite match up, the shape is a bit off, or an edge is missing. Many of us put the piece down and continue to search for the hunt; others will try to jam the piece into place in hopes that the puzzle maker was just having an off-day when he or she cut the pieces in the first place. Conforming to the needs of the team is no different. As leaders we need to recognize the shape of the leadership puzzle piece that the team needs and work to fit that shape. Sometimes it may take some adjusting on the team's part, sometimes it may take some adjusting on part of the leader. What the leader needs to be very cognizant of, though, is when the leader is trying to jam his or her leadership style into place. The team may go along with it because of the leader's position, but the team won't operate as effectively because the pieces just don't fit well together.
When leading a team, pay particular focus to what the team needs and ensure you are doing your part to adapt your style to fit best with the team. It's not about the team conforming to you; it's about the team getting things done.
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