Leadership Styles

I’ve recently had the opportunity to read and understand leadership style written inHBR’s 10 Must Reads on Communication (Published on April 2, 2013). As one of the most read books, I’ve re-read some of the major points and started to understand how different leaders require different method of communication.

One specific paragraph told me that “effective communication” is more than just a cloudy subject but art that must be honed for years. The paragraph says:

“All too often, people make the mistake of focusing too much on the content of their argument and not enough on how they deliver that message. Indeed, far too many decisions go the wrong way because information is presented ineffectively. In our experience, people can vastly improve their chances of having their proposals succeed by determining who the chief decision maker is among the executives they are trying to persuade and then tailoring their arguments to that business leader’s decision-making style.”

Most people may have faced flat-wall hitting moment when their managers or chief decision makers have decided to not move forward with your ideas, despite the research data, graphs, information, and sufficient proof of efforts. We think that what we believe, written and shown could be easily persuaded. But, to the contrary, most presentations end up failing to result or delivery good response. This is due to the lack of “understanding leadership style” and it is simply the difference on “wording”, “association” and “delivery” of your message. Just as anyone responds differently to food tasting, we can put necessary ingredients, decoration food, and different cooking methods to satisfy the end-user (the decision marker) with the best intention,

The five major leadership styles are:
1. Charismatics
2. Thinkers
3. Skeptics
4. Followers
5. Controllers

Executives usually fall into one of above listed five decision making categories.Charismatics can be initially exuberant about a new idea or proposal but will yield a final decision based on a balanced set of information. Thinkers can exhibit contradictory points of view within a single meeting and need to cautiously work through all the options before coming to a decision. Skeptics remain highly suspicious of data that don’t fit with their worldview and make decisions based on their gut feelings. Followers make decisions based on how other trusted executives, or they themselves, have made similar decisions in the past. Andcontrollers focus on the pure facts and analytics of a decision because of their own fears and uncertainties. Controllers often follow their gut feelings.

Knowing these different leadership can help persuade them more easily:
Charismatic leaders usually are enthusiastic, captivating, talkative, and dominant. They usually jump on to new ideas with strong enthusiasm, but because of their previous failures and doubtful experiences, they always look for the bottom line/results. To persuade this type leader, you must use specific words, includingresults, proven, actions, show, easy, clear and focus. You must also be calm as to not join their enthusiasm and avoid long presentations. Try using direct, brief and concise arguments, along with visual aids to stress the resulting benefits in following your proposal.

Thinkers are intelligent, logical and academic drive individuals. The prime example of thinkers are Michael Dell, Bill Gates, and Katherine Graham. They tend to have strong aversion to risk and always look at various data points. When trying to persuade a thinker-type leader, you must use words such as quality, academic, number, intelligent, proof and expert reference. Because of their academic attitude and cautious decision method, you must prepare variety of visual, academic and industry reports. More data the better for them. They will want to see various perspective-based information, identify SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats), and different industry references. You must also be patient in waiting for their decision as they will want to review the information carefully. But when they make the decision, they make it very firm and push out the confirmed decision.

Skeptics are bit annoying as they are skeptical of every data presented if they think your data conflict with their worldviews. They are often described asaggressive, demanding, disagreeable, and rebellious. To effective persuade these skeptics, you must use aggressive words alike: feel, grasp, power, action, trust, demand and disrupt. Persuading a skeptic is bit like office politics – you need all the credibility from your coworkers and other employees. The most effective method (often used) is to gain the trust and endorsement from someone the skeptic trusts.

Followers are often listeners and they compare how others react or have made similar decisions. They are risk-averse individuals and can be described ascautious, responsible, brand-driven, and bargain conscious. To persuade these executives, emphasize words like previous, innovate, expedite, similar to, and case of. They tend to follow the existing proven systems, testimonials and big-factoring influences. In order to make them understand and follow your proposal, provide previous case studies, compare/contrast your proposal to existing cases, and emphasize strengths of your proposal.

Controllers are extremely focused on pure facts and analytics of argument. They hate uncertainty and ambiguity. Most often, they tend to be unemotional, sensible, logical, detail-oriented and analytic-based decision maker. Therefore, you must use such words as details, facts, reasons, logic, handle, and just do it. The best way to persuade these controller are to present your proposal with structure and credible. Do not force the controllers to make the decision. You must let them persuade themselves by reading through the information and hope that they will convince themselves.

Although most people do say that leadership is shown in mix batch, but when executives are in the spur of the moment (when they are angry or excited or showing strong positive/negative emotion) and discussing about your proposal, their leadership tends to show one prominent style (one of the five types): Charismatic, Thinker, Skeptics, Follower and Controller.

If you are ever wondering why your proposal/idea wasn’t accepted, then now you may start to understand which type of leadership your chief decision maker is and can prepared better communication tactics.

I hope you can better communicate by knowing your decision maker’s leadership style and make your work life better.

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