Variety and flexibility are an important part of your empowering leadership style
In the summary of Session 2 of the Leadership Development Lab in a paper mill in northern Ontario, we reviewed everything we had covered, including the 15 Leadership Principles that most everyone had done a good job of memorizing. One of the participants asked a question about the difference between Leadership Principle #7 - Play Yourself Down, Leadership Principle #8 – Let It Be Their Idea, and Leadership Principles #9 – Dramatize Your Ideas. They seem juxtaposed, at opposite ends of the spectrum. Leadership Principle #7 and #8 are about humility and the willingness to give credit to others for their ideas and contributions. Leadership Principle #9 seemed more like grandstanding. I reminded the supervisor that as leaders, we must be prepared and effective in many situations, including giving your team and other associates all the credit they deserve for the success of projects and the enterprise. I then quickly told him the story of Craig Walker, my partner, promising his crew at SP Newsprint in Newberg, that he would shave his head if they set a production record. Craig Walker was at a corporate meeting in Atlanta the day the record was set. After he got the excited call, he excused himself from the meeting, went to his hotel room and shaved his head – a dramatic way of celebrating his crews’ success to the corporate management team.
Then I told the story of Juliana Howard, the youngest store manager at Nordstrom, the world famous clothing store chain, taking a life-size photograph of a winning department manager to her meeting in Seattle. Then I told the legendary story of Sam Walton doing the hula on Wall Street
when Wal-Mart’s profits exceeded their target of 8%. The story began with Wal-Mart executive David Glass, in a Hawaiian shirt and grass skirt, doing the hula before howling employees at Wal-Mart headquarters to celebrate the company’s stock hitting a record high. Walton made a wager with Glass that if their 1983’s pretax profits reached 8% he would hula down Wall Street at high noon. Their profits exceeded that goal, and Walton donned the shirt and skirt and did as he promised.
If these dramatic acts are not counterbalanced with humility and a genuine interest in others, they will create minimum value and impact. Likewise, the humble acts of listening and giving credit to others, will not create the ultimate impact you desire unless you step out of character when the occasion calls for it and introduce some dramatic flair. Remember Emerson’s admonishment; "Do nothing ordinary". Is it possible to play yourself down, to listen and show a genuine interest in noticeable ways, and introduce flair when the occasion calls for it? You know it is, though this variety in style of presentation isn’t often found. Variety, contrast is where charisma, charm and influence come from. Ask yourself, is there room for me to be warmer, more interested, more personable? And on the other hand, could you use a little more dramatic flair? I am betting there is room for both. I know there is for me. So where will you start – with drama or empathy? This is part of your program for being an empowering leader – don’t underestimate its importance. Make a decision, go into action, watch the response of those around you. You may be surprised at your effect and the improved results you achieve.