You may know your business or industry well. But do you know anything about yourself? Forward thinking executives and business leaders evaluate their employees and clients to help better understand work styles and personality types. Sales trainers try to understand the types of buyers their sales people are talking to and how those buyers make purchasing decisions. Marketers try to understand personality types and how those personalities will receive a message. Understanding the types of people you work with is important, especially for executives.
Peter F. Drucker put forward a simple and basic mission for executives — “Get the right things done.” Knowing what motivates clients and employees makes it possible to know what those right things might be. Successful executives look at their leadership styles and examine how those styles impact getting the right things done.
Depending on what needs to be done and who needs to take action, an executive’s leadership style could be different from moment to moment. If an organization is preparing to launch a new service for its clients, a good leader makes sure the offering is crafted correctly and talked about effectively. If that same executive is taking a group of sales people to a trade show to attract new clients, then he or she needs to cheer on the team as it tries to beat competitors for client orders. In the normal course of business, executives tend to default to their most comfortable style. What sort of executive are you?
The General — The General likes organizational discipline and a rigid and sensible approach to managing the workforce, defining missions, and conquering objectives. He or she likes to strategize and study the competitors for signs of weakness or opportunity. The General sees business as war, competitors as enemies, and employees as troops. This may seem like an antiquated idea, but there are many important aspects of the general persona that can help executives. Sun Tzu’s advice in The Art of War is still being well used by business strategists. Carl von Clausewitz’s Principles of War is still a best seller. An executive who understands organizational discipline, cohesive and consistent training processes, supply-line management, contingency planning, and the collection of intelligence is going to be successful. The downfall to the General is that there is no experimentation, innovation, or discussion allowed.
The Tribal Chief — The Tribal Chief is not just a political or military leader like the general, but also a leader in culture, lifestyle, and beliefs. There are some great examples in American history of the impact tribal leaders can have. Think of Tecumseh of the Shawnee. He inspired a large number of people to move with great intensity toward a common goal. Look at examples today: Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead created a tribe that followed them around the world. Steve Jobs became a tribal leader of Apple product devotees. The difficulty with being a tribal chief is that chiefs fall out of fashion and tribal members often leave to follow other interests.
The Sports Coach — Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you’ve seen one coach or another become the figurehead and leader of a school or city. The idea of gathering your team for a quick tactical review huddle before putting them back out on the field to win the big trophy is very appealing. The hard fact about coaching is that for every second of point-scoring exhilaration, there are hours and hours of recruiting, training, practice, study, research, discussion, preparation, and anxiety. Sports and business do share some commonalities, and recruiting, training, research, preparation, and anxiety are some of them. Coaches know their business is all about the fun and the thrill of victory, but they also understand how that relates to cash flow and asset appreciation. A sports coach can fall short when people in the organization do not relate to sports analogies or are not driven by team competition.
The Spoiled Brat — Sometimes a boss wants to get his or her own way. There are some executives who are not interested in the talent people bring, only in production. These executives usually bark orders and berate people who don’t complete tasks exactly the way the executive wants them done. There are times the Spoiled Brat has a temper tantrum or suddenly changes his or her mind just to throw people off balance. The Spoiled Brat may confuse himself or herself with the General. Bu, the General will hold composure and keep the battle plan even under pressure. Under pressure the Spoiled Brat overreacts and lashes out. The advantage the Spoiled Brat has is that people react quickly and try to make their boss happy in order to avoid the tantrums. The downside of the Spoiled Brat is just that — a spoiled brat!
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There are many personas to describe people’s default executive style. The keys to being an effective executive are to know the strengths and weaknesses of your style and be able to adopt a different persona as circumstances require. You may need to be the strategizing general today while you prepare for a long range planning retreat with your team, and tomorrow you might need to be the sports coach cheering for your practice at a meeting. Which persona is going to get the right things done? That is the executive you should be.
Tron Jordheim is the CMO of StorageMart, one of the world's largest privately held self-storage companies with locations across the U.S. and Canada. He has helped lead the company to double-digit revenue growth for the last four years. Jordheim has consulted for companies and spoken at trade events in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Spain, and Mexico. Prior to StorageMart, Jordheim managed one of Culligan Water's top U.S. bottled water franchises. With 40+ years of experience in sales, marketing, and training, he is sought after as a public speaker, sales trainer, and consultant. For more information, visitstorage-mart.com/blog/author/tron-jordheim.