People don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses. So when you’re the leader, your job directly impacts employee retention. While some people are naturally good at managing others, all of us have strengths and weaknesses that can affect our relationships with members of the team.
"When you’re in charge, your opinion takes up more space than others’, whether you intend it or not," says Jonathan Raymond, author of Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting For. "What you say and do carries more weight. It’s only a bad thing when it’s disempowering and demotivating others from finding their own voice."
Looking at yourself as a whole can help you sidestep the pitfalls and become a better leader, says Raymond, who is principal at the management-training company Refound. "You can’t think about your strengths without your weaknesses; weaknesses are based in strengths," he says. "For example, the traits that made Steve Jobs a genius also made him difficult to work for."
Leaders fall into three categories, says Raymond: fixers, fighters, and friends. When you identify which one you are, you can use your strengths to motivate others and acknowledge your weaknesses so they don’t negatively affect your team.
This is the person who is incredibly detail-oriented, says Raymond. They are attentive to the customer experience and are focused on delivering exceptional services or products. This person doesn’t let anything go to chance, and has a low threshold for mistakes. Their motto is, "If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself."
While customers love fixers, this can be a difficult personality type to work for, says Raymond. "If they’re not careful, they can become a micromanager," he says. "Nobody lives up to their standards, and this can be disempowering."
Instead of believing "my way is the right way," fixers need to be a role model. They can transform their leadership style by letting go of their need for control. Sometimes this means getting out of the office for extended periods of time.
To address their impact on the team, fixers can start the conversation by acknowledging their need to be involved in every step. For example, "It will be hard for me to step back, so let’s go over everything to make sure you have what you need. You have great judgment; better than I give you credit for."
The fighter leader is an endless source of ideas. They are the person who sees the next new way to do something. "They know where the business could go, and a new market to capture, and they’re the most creative of the three leadership archetypes," says Raymond. "Their motto is, ‘Why wouldn’t we?’"
While they’re inspiring to work for, fighters don’t have much discipline and often send their staff on wild goose chases. "The problem comes when they don’t realize how much work gets created in their wake," says Raymond. "One email turns into 10 new projects. And then they change their mind."
While a fighter’s worst nightmare is status quo, they need to find self-discipline and be more selective and aware about how they impact those around them. They can negatively affect their team by becoming sidetracked by the next idea, and not allow anyone to complete a project with their full attention.
Fighter leaders should start the conversation by acknowledging that change happens with small steps. For example, "Hey guys, I’ve been doing some thinking and I realize how fast I’ve been going, how hard I’ve been pushing you. I didn’t see it until now. I’m really sorry. Let’s get together and figure out which projects we can archive, which we can delete, so the right things get attention."
The leader who is a friend is the person with the open-door policy and the belief that culture is everything, says Raymond. This leader makes employees feel cared about and seen. Their motto is, "We’re all on the same team."
"The goal of the friend is to create a place people feel good about," says Raymond. "It’s lovely but it has a downside."
When things get tough, friend leaders have to choose between being tough and being nice, and this type of leader doesn’t like to deliver bad news. Instead of creating accountability, they strive for harmony. As a result, friends deprive their team of one of the key elements of being a good leader: Being willing to stand up for the thing that needs to change, and requiring each team member to do their personal work to change it.
To approach a tough topic, Raymond suggests that friend leaders start the conversation by connecting with the employee first. For example: "Hey, you know me, and how much I want this place to be great for you guys and to have fun here. But I’m really at a loss about what to do."
"Friends must take 100% ownership for the dynamic they’ve created up to this point," says Raymond. "You earn the right to ask people to adapt to a new agreement by acknowledging their role in creating and perpetuating the old one."
Once you identify which type fits your personality, Raymond says you can become aware of your actions, but you shouldn’t stop there.
"Talk with your team about your weaknesses," he says. "Transparency can feel vulnerable, but it’s empowering to your team if you’re willing to say, ‘Here are my strength areas and this is where I might disempower you.’"
Sharing your weaknesses doesn’t undermine your authority, Raymond believes, it allows you to become stronger. "Do you think anyone who works for you doesn’t already know where you’re weak?" asks Raymond. "It’s already out there, and the only one who isn’t talking about it is you."