What Kind of Leadership Style Is Best?

June 26, 2020

While this is a very common question, “best” needs to be considered through two lenses: a.) what goal are you trying to achieve, and b.) what is the context of your environment.  But first, let’s just select a few leadership “styles” to test these questions against.

There are many leadership styles that you will find written about with many differing and overlapping names and attributes.  For our discussion we will define these six as they are very common in the business world.

  1. The Commanding Leader – Direct, strong-willed, focused, dominant, autocratic, tells you what to do and expects it will be done
  2. The Inspiring Leader – Charismatic, energetic, fun-loving, group-oriented, people person, sensitive to relationships
  3. The Expert Leader – Very detailed, questioning, data-driven, scrutinizing, very intelligent, quality driven
  4. The Bureaucratic Leader – Process / procedure oriented, compliance-driven, rules-focused, risk averse, facilitates i.e., knows how to use “the system”, doesn’t want to “make waves”
  5. The Delegating Leader – More manager than leader, manages work to be done by delegating the work to others, low level of control and participation
  6. The Participative Leader – Consensus-driven, everyone gets to be heard prior to decision making, may decide issues by group voting, sensitive to others’ opinions.

Now considering the lens of what you are trying to achieve, in the case where certain work absolutely MUST be done, possibly within a certain timeframe, the Commanding or Inspiring leaders may have the advantage.  This would be particularly true if in their context, their team members were not highly self-motivated, were not very experienced, and/or needed strong direction.  On the other hand, these styles may not be suited for experienced teams that already know what to do and how to deliver.  These teams could feel the leader is being condescending to them.

When trying to achieve a result of great precision, having an Expert or the Bureaucratic leader can be useful.  Things will get done right and by the book.  In the context of highly regulated industries or high consequences of failure, with a team of very competent people, these styles would be useful.  With a less experienced team, these styles still would be capable of teaching the team what to do.  But they could offend team members that want to do “real work”, if micromanagment is used.

In the case that the work is large or cross-functional, the Delegating or Participative leaders are often encountered.  Breaking down the work into manageable chunks done across teams / organizations or when trying to reduce the risk profile of the endeavor, these styles are suitable.  However, the context requires competent and dependable team members / organizations as these styles utilize less control.  And if the context requires speed, this style is less desirable due to multiple possible failure points on any given piece of work or falling into “consensus-paralysis” trying to get everyone in agreement.

Again, these styles may be mixed and matched in many combinations.  Note that their success also depends on the competency of the leader.  None of the styles are inherently good or bad – just more or less appropriate.  It can be useful for leaders to use differing styles for different situations (but they need to be careful not to appear capricious, because teams need to see consistency in their leadership).

When you want to decide which style is best, ask which is best for your goal and your context.

#Leadership #Style #Bureaucratic #Delegation #Expert



It’s Your Choice

October 30, 2019

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Don’t Listen To What They Say!

October 21, 2019

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Listen to what they don’t say.

Listen to what they feel.

Listen to what they want.

Listen to what they fear.

Listen to what they know.

Then listen to what they say, and you may understand.

– Bob Maksimchuk

How Do You Lead?

September 25, 2019



What Kind of Critic Are You?

July 20, 2019

You probably have been the recipient of “constructive” criticism.  Did you enjoy it?  Was the experience useful?  Really?

Have you ever been in a position to GIVE that kind of feedback?  Be assured that it’s not comfortable for either person.

  • Are you the type of critic that gives feedback with lots of “facts” that justify or make YOU feel better about giving that criticism?
  • Are you the type of critic that gives criticism because you are “helping” by providing them with the “truth”?
  • Are you the type of critic that gives feedback by talking around and around the criticism in an effort to soften the blow?
  • Are you the type of critic that tries to minimize the seriousness of the feedback and then quickly redirects the conversation to cheer them up?

Next time, spend a while thinking about how the other person you are critiquing can best RECEIVE your comments.  For example, will they want to hear your input directly, with no frills or do they need the message to be tempered for them to hear what you have to say?

If you can adapt to another person’s communication “protocol” maybe your comments will be received as caring and not criticism.



Appreciation Is Life

May 1, 2019

I was recently looking through one of my favorite classic books How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the Dale Carnegie Program and then to be an Associate Instructor.  But this time, Read the rest of this entry »


The Empowerment Cycle

March 14, 2019

Empowerment is a word we hear bandied about freely. But what does this mean? Most people struggle to explain it.  When asked the more important question of how you empower people, you usually hear a very short, shallow answer such as you just give them a challenging assignment. Either that or you hear crickets.

However you want to define it, it’s more important to understand how you empower people.  Empowerment is a process and this process has four mandatory components. If any of these are missing, the result will simply be failure.  Here you see the Empowerment Cycle.©

the empowerment cycle

It’s the repetitive, iterating, full cycle process for enabling people to incrementally increase their autonomy so that they can independently and responsibly achieve their goals. Now let me repeat that.

Empowerment is the repetitive, iterative, full cycle process for enabling people to incrementally increase their autonomy so that they can independently and responsibly achieve their goals.

It’s an iterative process because you are not empowering them once for everything they will do for the rest of their life. You are empowering them to handle the immediate task at hand.  Start a person’s empowerment with an assignment that’s challenging but commensurate with their abilities. When successful, give them their next more challenging assignment and move through this cycle again, when that’s complete, rinse and repeat.

Let’s take a closer look at each component of the empowerment cycle.

The first step in empowerment is to Equip the person you want to empower.  Equip means to give them everything they need to be successful in the task at hand. Clearly, they have to have or must learn the skills they need to be successful in the assignment – both hard and soft skills. But don’t forget, they also need to understand your objectives, your vision, and your values. That is, what do you hold is important and your expectations.  If they don’t know what you want, they may execute well but not achieve your desired results.

Next is Authorize. Here’s where many people fall very short. When they supposedly empower people, many think that’s just loading people up with a lot of challenging work and saying, “Have at it”. That’s not empowerment.  That’s making people responsible for a heavy workload.

When empowering, you must give that person the responsibility and the authority to get the job done.  Without the authority, they can only work within their sphere of influence.  Especially in large organizations, your people can easily be ignored by others if they don’t have the authority to decide and act as needed.

Also, you must be clear on the limits of the authority you are lending to them.  What are their decision rights, that is, what is within and what is beyond their authority to decide?  For example, you may give them the authority to purchase items up to $5,000, but beyond that they have to come back to you for approval. They must also understand any boundaries on their authority. For example, they may be authorized to use 50% of Joe’s time on their assignment, but they can’t hire or fire people.  When should they involve certain departments in the work but should not approach others?

And lastly, they must be accountable for the results. Since in the Equip step you made clear your outcomes and expectations, you both must agree on how they will be held accountable for achieving these.

The next step is Support. You must actively demonstrate your support for the person or team you are empowering.  Communication must be honest and open, but tempered, that is, not harsh. This person is stretching themselves into new territory. They need to hear that you have faith in them to be successful. They need to be praised along the way on the small successes, you must make it safe for them to stretch and take reasonable risks. If things go wrong, you must correct them gently, providing guidance and not publicly berating them. You need to create a fail-safe situation for them, allowing them to fall short sometimes, but not letting them do things that would be career ending.

And you must be patient. You have to give them time to navigate their way through territory that’s new to them.

Even when the assignment is over, the empowerment is not.  They and you must Grow from the prior experience and continue learning deeper and / or develop newer skills to prepare them for the next more challenging opportunity. You must show them the growth path for their careers. It must answer the questions “Why should I risk taking on these challenges? I could just do my job. What’s in it for me?”  People need a big enough reason to grow that provides momentum for them to continue to achieve.  Obviously, you’re mentoring of them — not micromanaging them or second guessing them — your mentoring of them is crucial throughout this process. And then the empowerment cycle begins again with Equip.

Yes, this is a lot of work and yes, empowerment takes time. But the positive results have been well documented in the industry. Recent studies have shown that employee engagement in their work is at miserably low levels. When people like their work, they’re more engaged, more innovative, and more committed to doing quality work at their jobs. Trust is enhanced between you and your people. Because you trusted them to get the job done without constant supervision, you, they, and the organization all grow to be more capable and high performing.




June 10, 2018

You don’t have to ask many people.  Everyone is busy.  But as a leader, you don’t have that as an excuse.   It has been said that managers keep the business running, but leaders move the business forward.  If you don’t think you have the time to move the business forward, the business will stagnate.  Be stagnant for too long and the business will lose ground and be overtaken by its competitors.

As a leader, you must use your time and teams most effectively.  A simple first step is to leverage your team’s capabilities.  You must enable your teams to receive delegated work from you.  And here is where many leaders don’t leverage their teams.  The reason many leaders give: I “don’t have the time”.

That begins the “Downward Spiral of Leadership”.  If you don’t think you have the time you don’t delegate.  If you don’t delegate the team’s abilities don’t improve.  If your teams can’t do the work (or if you think only you can do it better and faster) you jump in.  When you jump in to carry the extra load, you really won’t have the time.  Rinse and repeat.


You’re not a leader because you are busy.

You’re not a leader because you do it all.

You’re not a leader because you believe you do everything better than your team.

You’re not a leader because you have a title.

When you use time effectively – when you develop and equip your team to do more – when you give your team the opportunities to excel – when you serve others, then you are on the path to leadership.  Break the spiral.


Dysfunctional Delusions

November 28, 2016

If you want high performing teams, they have to be built first and foremost on a foundation of trust.  Patrick Lencioni cites the lack of trust as the first (of five) dysfunctions of a team.  The team members must feel that their other teammates will “have their back” when things get rough.  And as a manager or leader, that includes you too.  In fact, if you want to shift your organizational culture to a more empowered, trust-based culture, management must lead the way by demonstrating (not just talking about) the values and behavioral norms you want for the organization.

One key factor that trust is built on is consistency.  Are you consistent in your behavior?  Are you complimentary one moment and then arrogant or dismissive the next?  Are you puerile?  Vindictive?  People trust their leadership when the feel they know how you will react in various situations.  With trust they will feel they can bring issues to you for help when necessary without risking their positions.  If your behavior varies significantly, your teams realize they cannot understand what your reaction to any given problem will be.  They won’t feel safe to be honest with you.   In other words, they won’t trust you.

And if you think you can behave one way in front of your teams and another in private, you are deluding yourself.  When it comes to sensing duplicities, people seem to have x-ray vision.  They are very good at detecting such contrary behavior.  And when they do, trust may never develop.

To be a true leader you must build trust.  Otherwise your teams won’t progress and you’ll remain simply a taskmaster.


Agile Pneumonia and the Manifesto Blues

July 15, 2015

Sung to the tune of Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Blues by Johnny Rivers, J.Vincent and H. Smith.

(If you don’t know it, you can listen here first >>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvJ78hYI6wk )


Agile Pneumonia and the Manifesto Blues

Blocked tasks, they decorate out wall
I wanna holler, but the team room’s small

Old PM just doesn’t know what to do
I got the agile pneumonia and the manifesto blues

Large stories, medium, and small
Do anything so that our points don’t fall

New Scrummaster’s got a hold of me too
I got the agile pneumonia and the manifesto blues

Squeeze in more stories with two days to go
We’d deliver but our velocity’s low

Business just doesn’t understand what we do
I got the agile pneumonia and the manifesto blues

Only an hour with the new PO
That’s not how agile’s supposed to go

Wish the PO would guide what we do
I got the agile pneumonia and the manifesto blues

Long day and now I’m hurryin’ home
Can’t finish planning ‘cause we’re takin’ too long

Let’s do this right or I think that I’m through
I got the agile pneumonia and the manifesto blues.

Rockin Pnuemonia label

You can, as long as you include the following complete text with it: “Bob Maksimchuk is a Principal Consultant at Project Pragmatics, LLC., specializing in helping software development teams GET WORK DONE by introducing: PRACTICAL techniques, STREAMLINED process, and FOCUSED training and mentoring, all specific to your team’s needs. Visit now at http://www.ProjectPragmatics.com. All rights reserved © 2015 Project Pragmatics, LLC.”