To be a successful leader, you must understand three concepts: people, procedure, and performance. Most leaders are strong in one type and weak in another. The major is what they naturally lead with and value the most, but the minor is frequently a skill they’ve polished through time. You must be aware of your majors and minors in order to effectively establish and communicate with your team.
Performance-first executives prioritise results above all else, which is advantageous because great performance can solve the majority of business-related issues. These leaders are usually action-oriented and make swift decisions. They spend more time looking at results and less time thinking about how they got there.
Scalable organisations require solid processes, and this type of leader excels at both imagining and implementing them. They feel that adhering to these processes is more conducive to long-term success and will take the time to fully comprehend all of the repercussions of a decision.
People-driven executives add tremendous value to their organisations by intentionally and aggressively enhancing their teams. They foster a psychologically secure atmosphere in which employees feel supported and respected. Employees are more likely to be productive and motivated when they feel linked to their workplace culture and their bosses.
As a new leader, you’re undoubtedly wondering what you need to do to succeed. After reading dozens of business books, talking with hundreds of colleagues, and thinking on this for many years, I’ve narrowed it down to three points. You must have a solid understanding of people, processes, and performance.
Performance-oriented leaders keep the company focused on goals and meeting deadlines.
Process-oriented leaders ensure the company runs smoothly and efficiently, always looking for ways to automate tasks that make everyone’s lives easier.
People-oriented leaders keep the company’s culture strong and ensure everyone is treated fairly.
I believe most leaders major in one style and minor in another. The major is what they naturally lead with and deem most valuable, while the minor is often a skill they’ve honed over time. Having an awareness of your majors and minors will help you communicate with your team in the most effective way and help them — and your organization — succeed.
Let’s dive deeper into each of the three leadership majors.
Performance-first executives prioritise results above all else, which is advantageous because great performance can solve the majority of business-related challenges. These leaders are typically action-oriented and make swift decisions. They spend more time analysing results and less time understanding how they arrived at those results.
Performance-first leaders are more effective because they get more done and aren’t hesitant to make difficult decisions. They reach objective conclusions by listening to statistics rather than persons.
What happens when you value performance over process?
These leaders make quick decisions but fail to reflect on how those decisions will affect the existing processes around them. This creates a mess, often for someone else to clean up. There’s a risk of molding an environment that feels chaotic and stressful, resulting in employee burnout and high turnover.
How a performance-oriented leader can keep process in mind…
One of their favourite things to say is “get it done,” but they don’t always know how to get it done themselves. It’s in this leader’s best interest to chop up a big request into several smaller tasks, making it easier to design a plan of attack and take stock in the associated processes. This way, employees can feel more confident in their ability to complete the request, and leaders can be sure their goals are achievable.
What happens when you value performance over people?
Leaders who value performance over people can overlook the big picture by prioritizing data above all else, ultimately prompting inaccurate conclusions and ill-fitted solutions. However, data doesn’t always tell the whole story. Only looking at the data can cause a performance-first leader to make misinformed decisions and put pressure on their direct reports to take hasty actions that they aren’t comfortable with.
How a performance-oriented leader can keep people in mind…
If you’re performance-oriented, own that style and recognize the immense value you bring to your organization — but also be aware of your shortcomings. Try to be more approachable and less autocratic to build a well-balanced team around you. Specifically, take time to look at the big picture, and ask people for their input on issues before relying on data alone. Connecting with your employees and hearing their feedback can help you gain a more thorough understanding of situations, solutions, and statistics.
Scalable organizations need sound processes in place, and a process-driven leader is great at envisioning and implementing them. They believe that adherence to these processes is more conducive to long-term success and will take the time to understand all of the necessary implications of a decision. They constantly look for efficiencies and opportunities to organize and streamline the processes around them.
The great benefit of valuing process is that your organizational structure is clean, people know what’s expected of them, and scaling up is relatively painless. There’s less frustration from individual contributors because they know how to do their job and what to do if they can’t.
What happens when you value process over performance?
When managing others, you might be valuing them based on whether they can follow the processes you put in place instead of determining whether the processes are actually improving their performance. When performance takes a back seat to process, your company or department can become stagnant, your competition can outpace you, and your team can become comfortable with mediocre results.
How a process-oriented leader can keep performance in mind…
The first step is to align processes with clear key performance indicators and expectations. By doing this, the leader can ensure their team is working toward a common goal and that they’re held accountable for their actions. Additionally, the leader can provide feedback to their team on a regular basis to help them improve their performance and alleviate any concerns about individual workflows.
It’s also crucial to be malleable regarding how your process is designed. Constantly evaluate and improve processes to increase efficiency and effectiveness instead of forcing a fixed structure out of ego. By doing this, a leader can ensure their team is always performing at its best.
What happens when you value process over people?
Unfortunately, many process-oriented leaders focus too much on the efficiency or novelty of their new process but fail to bring it back to the individual. It’s common for process-oriented leaders to overengineer processes and wonder why employees can’t follow them. What seems like the most obvious and sensible plan to one person might not be so easily followed by others.
How a process-oriented leader can keep people in mind…
Remember that not everyone thinks like you! Process-driven leaders must be patient and thorough when introducing new ideas while also setting up clear guidelines that will allow for objective assessment of individual performance and make it easier to hold people accountable. For example, consider breaking new processes down step by step and gathering feedback on which steps need more clarity. This will help all employees better understand new ideas and ensure everyone is accountable for their own success.
Nearly every business book in the world talks about the importance of people and the impact they have on companies. This is not a coincidence. When employees feel connected to their workplace culture and their managers, they’re more likely to be productive and motivated. People-driven leaders create enormous value for a company by consciously and proactively improving their teams.
People-driven leaders create a psychologically safe environment where employees feel supported and comfortable bringing challenges and asking for help. This is incredibly valuable because it allows team members to get the information they need quickly and accurately without being misconstrued as underperforming. They’re also good at getting the most out of employees by recognizing their strengths and giving them opportunities to use them.
What happens when you value people over performance?
What about when someone is bad at their job? People-oriented leaders are often great at valuing performance when it comes to those thriving in their roles but might struggle to hold people accountable when they aren’t. In this way, valuing people over performance can put a company at risk. You can’t always coach underperformers to greatness and, as a result, could end up keeping people on board for far too long, losing the trust of your peers.
How a people-oriented leader can keep performance in mind…
Ensure your team has the proper resources they need to be successful. This style of leadership isn’t about trivially making people happy; it’s about outlining the smoothest path to success — which, as a process, makes everyone’s individual lives easier. Resources are simply agents of support, and when team members are engaged, they are more likely to produce better results.
Also, don’t be afraid to maintain high standards and expectations for your team. This sets the tone for the rest of your organization and allows you to hold your team accountable as a leader, demonstrating that you are committed to their success. If the team leader does not hold their team to high standards, it will be difficult to expect them to hold their own performance in that regard.
What happens when you value people over process?
When you value people over process, you’re more concerned about your direct report’s well-being than whether or not they followed the methodology correctly. This can be valuable to the individual, but the lack of accountability to processes can create a lot of challenges for your manager and other teams around you. Other people rely on processes to understand performance regardless of how well you “think” your team is doing.
How a people-oriented leader can keep process in mind…
One of my favourite questions for the leadership team I work with is: “Is this a feeling or a fact?” People-driven leaders tend to lean into their feelings more than performance-oriented ones. They rely too heavily on the antidotes and not enough on the data. This could end up setting up new hires for failure by creating roles that could’ve been rolled up into pre-existing ones. Ask first whether certain processes can be streamlined before trying to solve problems by throwing more employees at them.
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Each leadership style comes with different strengths and weaknesses. The goal is not to rid yourself of the weaknesses; it’s to be aware of them so you can identify where you need assistance from other leaders in your organization.
Remember, the most effective leaders are those who can adapt their style to the situation and the people they’re leading, which is the type of adaptability every company needs on its path toward healthy, continued growth.