Picture old western movies or shows where you have a ranch, a few horses, and hundreds of cattle. You've seen enough of history to understand how this scenario goes. The rancher gets on the horse and herds the cattle to drive them from one part of the ranch to another. One leads (the rancher), and the rest do what they're forced to do, sort of. There may be some terrain that guides the cattle along their path, but ultimately, the rancher leads the movement.
This type of 'leadership' works great in these old western scenes because there is no expectation of the cattle other than to move hooves and change location; they are all viewed the same, and none are expected to take over or even lead the drive. But, in business, this type of leadership would fail EPICALLY! Why? Because this is the 21st century, and leadership looks much different. People are different, unique in their own right; therefore, it is imperative to get to know what differentiates one person from the next, especially in the workplace.
Not everyone will be your detail-oriented analyst or your office morale booster when things get tough and stress levels rise. Some employees are better at looking at the big picture when it comes to project management; others are ready to diagnose and correct issues that could potentially derail production. The best leaders understand the team's strengths by understanding T.E.A.M.S, or the natural thinking style and preferred role of employees.
Some words that describe this style are: visionary, creator, and idea generator. These are the team members who like to think big, talk about what's possible, and find creative "out of the box" solutions. The challenge for theorists is to focus on execution and details, and see a task through to completion.
These teammates are generally described as setting standards, implementing policies, and following procedures. Their performance offers accuracy and dependability to ensure things go according to plan. The executors' challenge comes when guidance is vague and details are lacking, as they prefer more information to be most effective.
Quite self-explanatory by type, these analytic team members are known for diving into the details to help organize and refine information and processes. They view problems as puzzles to solve and enjoy the reward of finding the missing pieces. The challenge for this style is what some may know as "the paralysis of analysis," as they risk slowing down the process or momentum by getting bogged down with too much detail.
The role of this style is often misunderstood by what the name infers, that “managers” are ultimately in charge of or administering total control over something. However, that's not an accurate depiction of this role. These team members provide great diplomatic oversight of processes, ensure preparations are made, opportunities and resources are available, and team needs are met. Managers' challenge is to not overwhelm themselves by attempting to equally balance needs across an organization, resulting in loss of focus and productivity.
These individuals are interested in helping the organization and individuals achieve long-term success through intentional design. They enjoy mapping out a plan of action, setting goals, and solving problems that could potentially become barriers to future success. They are exceptionally good at moving the team forward by meeting obstacles head-on. The challenge for this style is slowing down the pace and managing their expectations of others. Before moving on, they need to be sure their team is ready and equipped to move with them.
Does anything sound familiar? Can you think of team members in your organization who demonstrate strengths, as indicated by any of these thinking styles? Remember, a true team is made up of many different personality styles, strengths, and limitations. It is unproductive and counter-intuitive to assume they will all think and operate the same; understanding each team member's strengths and weaknesses, combined with effective communication, will help leaders identify the right person for the right role. Balancing your team is what will get the whole team moving towards achieving organizational goals.