You can break leadership styles into two basic categories: the UP Leadership Style and the DOWN Leadership Style. Of course, this is oversimplified. And, yes, leadership traits can be dissected further (for all you detail-oriented engineering types). Not all leaders possess all the qualities outlined below, and most leaders lean toward one style or the other.
The UP Leadership Style: Traits
The most noticeable feature of the UP Leadership Style is that you just feel more buoyant and energized when you’re around these people. They go out of their way to create a positive community: UP Leaders give others props during staff meetings, have a sense of humor, compliment their team members publicly and peers frequently. They provide small tokens of appreciation and take their team out or throw them parties to create community. They give credit where credit’s due and edify often.
An UP Leader doesn’t have a sneaky hidden agenda. They foster collaboration, trust, and transparency. They make work a safe place to make mistakes and learn in a non-shameful manner. They take decisive action without stepping on toes.
These leaders empower and raise up other leaders. If you have a new, innovative idea, they will let you try it out, within reason, especially if it helps your organization run more smoothly, or simplifies a process.
An UP Leader’s team members will be loyal to them and eager to complete assigned tasks. When someone works with an UP leader, you’ll hear things like, “I love my job” or “James has been the best guy I’ve ever worked for.”
The DOWN Leadership Style: Traits
This mediocre and sometimes downright terrible leadership style is often found in bureaucracies and corporations with layers and layers of middle management. These “leaders” embrace the status quo, and work the hardest at maintaining their turf in an organization than anything else, making sure to appear busy being busy, yet accomplishing nothing. They are not concerned about the well-being of others, their peers, or their team. They will stomp on people on their race to the top, and steal others’ ideas as their own (they especially love looting ideas from their underlings).
Blue Chalk and Blackboards
A DOWN Leader specializes in micromanagement. She will often find one or two staff members to belittle or harass. She does so at opportune times, sometimes at key points in front of others. One headmistress often came into my classroom and would critique my teaching in front of my students in the middle of class. One time, while I teaching, she snapped, “Don’t use blue chalk. I can’t see it.”
The students could see the chalk just fine. They looked at me like, “What the heck?! The mean principal lady is interrupting our learning.”
The students began to notice the headmistress’ bullying management style. One student asked me, “Why are you always getting in trouble?”
A DOWN Leader revels in calling underlings into her office with a snaky accomplice and delivering false accusations. Or she might enjoy criticizing for minutiae, such as the wrong color of chalk on the blackboard. One particularly nasty principal yelled at one of my teacher friends about making photocopies too slowly.
A DOWN Leader runs around, accomplishing very little, and works harder at appearing busy and important than actually accomplishing anything important. She rarely develops good relationships with her staff and has superficial relationships with community members. Her staff is often terrified of her and afraid to question her authority. Sometimes she will even steal other’s ideas, just to get ahead, and call them her own.
Know anyone like that? Are you an UP Leader or do you have more DOWN Leadership traits?