Whether you prefer an authoritative leadership style, a lenient one, or something in between, one factor that can truly enhance your effectiveness in leadership is to see yourself as serving the needs of your employees even as you serve the needs of your company or organization. Often these two sets of needs will coincide. The needs of your employees are the needs of a well-run organization as well. When they do contradict, seeing yourself as a kind of servant to your employees can help you to better weigh your priorities in both the long and short terms.
The traditional form of hierarchy in business organizations is known as a top-down or vertical structure. This means that you have a clear ranking from CEO to mail-room clerk, and everyone understands their place. This structure has both advantages and disadvantages. If you are a leader in this type of organization, it is helpful to understand what those advantages and disadvantages are in order to better serve the needs of your employees.
A Lateral Perspective
An alternative to the tradition vertical organizational structure is known as a lateral or horizontal structure. In this structure, the different departments are administered by project managers who report to an upper management and serve as a conduit between the team and the administrators.
Know Your Employees
Regardless of which organizational structure you employ, to lead effectively it helps to know your employees on a personal and professional level. Obviously, with larger corporations, the former is more difficult than the latter, but taking the time to get to know your employees as people can help inform your decision making in ways that not only affect employee morale but also help in crafting more effective approaches. If you understand what it is like to work on the front lines, you can better address problems in such a way that does not create additional problems. Keeping abreast of what goes on in your employees’ lives can also help you in addressing each person as an individual.
Genuine Empathy and the Power to Lead
Brian Browne Walker’s commentary on the I Ching offers some excellent advice about leadership: “Gentleness and understanding create in others an unconscious willingness to be led.” When you can genuinely understand where your employees are coming from, you are able to know exactly what to do or say to get the best results from them. This requires developing your own capacity for empathy.
This post is from February’s topic on “Being a Likeable Boss“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.