How to balance your leadership priorities and get people to follow

Abraham Lincoln has been repeatedly voted as our most popular president, probably because he achieved great results in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances. 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;  but more than 85 percent 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).

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 out of balance. To get better, we have to change by learning some new skills (behaviors).       

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.

For example, learning to patiently listen, really understanding and then affirming the ideas of others can feel uncomfortable.  For some, the needed skill might be learning to give specific, positive feedback.

Relationship-oriented leaders need to toughen up. For this leadership style, learning to be more decisive and 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. Plan 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.