October 3, 2011
Companies are built in the image of their leaders. It is as true of Virgin’s cheeky Richard Branson-inspired persona, as of a Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) that, under Sir Fred Goodwin, believed it could do no wrong. Determining how to make the most of your leader’s qualities is an important task for internal communicators. In difficult times, leaders have to set the company’s agenda, raise and maintain morale and chart a path forward – all at once. Here are the six most common leadership styles. So which one is your boss? Barack Obama Key personality traits: The classic rock-star CEO sets the big picture, moving people towards a shared vision. Superb public speaker with an abiding fondness of the limelight. Internal comms advice: Visionaries work well when they have a day or weekend to explain their vision and allow the interchange of ideas. Webcasts also provide the perfect vehicle for visionaries to reach beyond national boundaries. Regular communication in the form of picture-led newspaper-style updates is also a great way for them to reach employees. Angela Merkel Key personality traits: The type of leader who also wants to be your friend. A collaborative figure who focuses on emotional needs and is most likely to say ‘how are you?’. Internal comms advice: These are often very effective senior managers, but they need to find a way to show steel. Accordingly, getting back to the shop floor can work well with this leader’s collaborative qualities, while also demonstrating that they are not afraid of rolling up their sleeves. Regular ‘health check’ team meetings to discuss company progress are an opportunity to share constructive feedback in a group setting, which the affiliative leader will find more comfortable. Feedback from external sources, such as customer satisfaction surveys, will address any reluctance from the leader to communicate anything other than positive points. Dr Who Key personality traits: Holds long conversations that often reach beyond the work place. Good at helping staffers find strengths and weaknesses and tying these to career aspirations. Internal comms advice: This style is useful in intimate sessions and small groups, It is important, therefore, that day-to-day comms requirements do not become the focus. Specify a senior manager who can handle these, leaving the leader to focus on the bigger picture, and the one-to-one coaching at which they excel. Lord Sebastian Coe Key personality traits: Listening, often at the expense of immediate action. ‘What do you think?’ is the obvious catchphrase for this leader, who likes to show the way without pushing people through it. Internal comms advice: A democratic leader likes to involve people and provide opportunity for feedback, in which case, workshops, online forums or a blog allow them to manage downwards to the team. It is vital that the democratic leader is able to communicate decisiveness. Create a forum on an intranet – this will enable a democratic culture to thrive. Margaret Thatcher Key personality traits: Most likely to say ‘copy me’, a back-breaking workhorse who leads by example and never shirks a challenge. Expects employees to automatically get the picture. Internal comms advice: They need help in consideration, listening to people’s problems, caring for those less able and managing egos. Therefore, focus on building a more inclusive approach, and advise this leader to take some time to understand team needs. This can be addressed by implementing a recognition programme that celebrates team wins at all levels of the organisation. Montgomery Burns Key personality traits: Typical catchphrase is ‘do this’. An old-school taskmaster who brings playground dynamics to the boardroom. Refuses to consider an alternative message. Internal comms advice: The key to successful comms as a commanding leader is in ensuring you always communicate the why as well as the what. Expecting employees to jump when you ask them to is more likely to result in people digging their heels in. Commanding leaders can breed distrust, and a sense that internal opinions do not matter. People therefore need a channel to communicate that gives them their voice safely and without fear of intimidation. Look at newsletters, blogs, surveys and feedback forms. Also, work on the non-verbal comms aspects, all that frowning, posturing and glaring can speak volumes and rapidly disenchant a workforce.