Leader Assertiveness: Just The Right Amount

Question: What would you say is the first key skill of a leader who hopes to
balance over-assertive and under-assertive in order to  lead from
between their two extremes?That was
posed by Dr. Ellen Weber some time ago in a 
Brain-Based Business post. Ellen pointed to some research by Ames and Flynn
who observed that when leaders walked somewhere between the lines of
too much
and two little assertiveness… they managed better … according to
workers. The same issue popped up again in a “talent” discussion with a client group this week, which prompted me to think it is a topic worth a post. So, here goes:How Much Assertiveness is “Just Right?”Ellen mentioned that some of her
conversations about the topic tool place in Ireland. Since I’ve spent a
lot of my life living and working in Europe, I’ve had to get used to the
fact that when people there talk about management and related behavior
they do it a lot more conversationally, using everyday language. Quite
frankly, I find that the absence of behavioral jargon can make it a lot
easier and more natural to discuss topics whose buzzwords can build
tension.In the U.S., there is a recent history of attempting to
carefully delineate behaviors using very specific language. This is, in
part, the result of approaching human behavior as a science. Since
behavior is, indeed, quite situational, this approach serves at least
three purposes that I can see:1. It provides a common language
that, when used appropriately and above board, highlights nuance and
helps one understand how specific actions impact one’s effectiveness.2.
It provides specific definition of attributes that can lead to
promotion, rewards, or dismissal. Which means that it also makes
dismissal more explainable. (Likewise, terminology can become great
fodder for one’s attorney in the event of a dismissal).3. It
lends a “scientific” aura to common-sense training and development
which, while fully understood as desirable by most reasonable managers,
can’t be bought and paid for without the “proof” that comes from a
smathering of statistics and a few 6-syllable words that prove how
deeply meaningful those statistics must really be. I believe the
real issue is situational effectiveness. For example, if I
don’t know what to do or how to do it, then my boss has to be very
directive and explanatory. If my task is something that I’ve done well a
million times, then I want to know what the deadline is and I’ll
deliver it. Nothing more. If I need something along the way, I want a
manager who I can go to for advice or re-direction. In the first case,
the manager manages me closely. In the second, the manager is my
consultant.The reason that Ames and Flynn saw what they did is
really rather simple: Since most of us as workers are at least somewhat
competent and, hopefully, somewhat mature, any behavior that operates at
either extreme will be seen as:1. Unnecessarily overbearing and
somewhat demeaning2. Unreasonably absent of relationship and
connection, and therefore not engaged. Or overly focused on
‘relationship and happiness’ to the exclusion of completing the task
successfully.Anything in between will be close enough to
respectfully  engage one’s employees as well as create an atmosphere
that invites questions and help, when needed.Then What is
Effective Leadership?The desire and ability to
meet other people where they are and then spend the right amount of time
helping them get where they need to go. Sometimes it’s a
long walk together. Other times a brief conversation and a nudge in the
right direction.What you need to do the right thing at the right time:1. A high degree of
self-awareness regarding one’s innate tendencies toward one extreme or
the other2. The desire and ability to manage those tendencies in
a way that serves the needs and performance of others3. The
humility to pause regularly and ask “How am I doing?”4. The
decency to listen to the answers.5. The wisdom to make selfless
changes as a result.That’s my take, minus the jargon. What’s
yours?
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Steve has designed and delivered leadership and communication programs for some of the world's largest organizations, and has more than 30 years in training, development, and high-level executive coaching. His Roesler Group has created and delivered leadership and talent development internationally for corporations such as Pfizer, Minerals Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, NordCarb Oy Ab, and Specialty Minerals--Europe. Steve is currently involved in the latest update of his Presenting With Impact program, a cross-cultural presentations workshop that has been delivered on five continents to more than 1,000 participants representing nearly 60 nationalities.

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Leader Assertiveness: Just The Right Amount

Assertive_1
Question: What would you say is the first key skill of a leader who hopes to
balance over-assertive and under-assertive in order to  lead from
between their two extremes?

>
That was
posed by Dr. Ellen Weber some time ago in a 
Brain-Based Business post
. Ellen pointed to some research by Ames and Flynn

who observed that when leaders walked somewhere between the lines of
too much
and two little assertiveness… they managed better … according to
workers.

>The same issue popped up again in a “talent” discussion with a client group this week, which prompted me to think it is a topic worth a post. So, here goes:

How Much Assertiveness is “Just Right?”

>Ellen mentioned that some of her
conversations about the topic tool place in Ireland. Since I’ve spent a
lot of my life living and working in Europe, I’ve had to get used to the
fact that when people there talk about management and related behavior
they do it a lot more conversationally, using everyday language. Quite
frankly, I find that the absence of behavioral jargon can make it a lot
easier and more natural to discuss topics whose buzzwords can build
tension.

In the U.S., there is a recent history of attempting to
carefully delineate behaviors using very specific language. This is, in
part, the result of approaching human behavior as a science. Since
behavior is, indeed, quite situational, this approach serves at least
three purposes that I can see:

1. It provides a common language
that, when used appropriately and above board, highlights nuance and
helps one understand how specific actions impact one’s effectiveness.

2.
It provides specific definition of attributes that can lead to
promotion, rewards, or dismissal. Which means that it also makes
dismissal more explainable. (Likewise, terminology can become great
fodder for one’s attorney in the event of a dismissal).

3. It
lends a “scientific” aura to common-sense training and development
which, while fully understood as desirable by most reasonable managers,
can’t be bought and paid for without the “proof” that comes from a
smathering of statistics and a few 6-syllable words that prove how
deeply meaningful those statistics must really be.

I believe the
real issue is situational effectiveness.

For example, if I
don’t know what to do or how to do it, then my boss has to be very
directive and explanatory. If my task is something that I’ve done well a
million times, then I want to know what the deadline is and I’ll
deliver it. Nothing more. If I need something along the way, I want a
manager who I can go to for advice or re-direction. In the first case,
the manager manages me closely. In the second, the manager is my
consultant.

The reason that Ames and Flynn saw what they did is
really rather simple: Since most of us as workers are at least somewhat
competent and, hopefully, somewhat mature, any behavior that operates at
either extreme will be seen as:

1. Unnecessarily overbearing and
somewhat demeaning

2. Unreasonably absent of relationship and
connection, and therefore not engaged. Or overly focused on
‘relationship and happiness’ to the exclusion of completing the task
successfully.

Anything in between will be close enough to
respectfully  engage one’s employees as well as create an atmosphere
that invites questions and help, when needed.

Then What is
Effective Leadership?

The desire and ability to
meet other people where they are and then spend the right amount of time
helping them get where they need to go.

Sometimes it’s a
long walk together. Other times a brief conversation and a nudge in the
right direction.

What you need to do the right thing at the right time:

1. A high degree of
self-awareness regarding one’s innate tendencies toward one extreme or
the other

2. The desire and ability to manage those tendencies in
a way that serves the needs and performance of others

3. The
humility to pause regularly and ask “How am I doing?”

4. The
decency to listen to the answers.

5. The wisdom to make selfless
changes as a result.

That’s my take, minus the jargon.

What’s
yours?


Link to original post

Avatar

Steve has designed and delivered leadership and communication programs for some of the world's largest organizations, and has more than 30 years in training, development, and high-level executive coaching. His Roesler Group has created and delivered leadership and talent development internationally for corporations such as Pfizer, Minerals Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, NordCarb Oy Ab, and Specialty Minerals--Europe. Steve is currently involved in the latest update of his Presenting With Impact program, a cross-cultural presentations workshop that has been delivered on five continents to more than 1,000 participants representing nearly 60 nationalities.

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