Search
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Lead Differently Depending on Who's Following

by Shel Horowitz

Continuing the June '99 discussion of leadership after a fabulous Delaney House dinner, Ingrid Bredenberg of Human Resource Innovations led Family Business Center members on a light-hearted series of brainstorms and exercises. For instance, according to participants, leaders are NOT public introverts, wimps, counter-productive, blamers, or mere managers.

Bredenberg embraced Manz's term. Superleaders, she said, are "authentic, congruent, consistent, socially competent. They see opportunities and network in unusual connections," including the Family Business center. And they don't just throw out ideas, but spend a lot of time listening. "Having all he right questions is more important than having all the right answers. Ask questions that reveal feelings. Good leaders work with people's emotions. It's challenging--you have to know what your own emotions are--and deal with others to let them be true and authentic." Another crucial point: our greatest personal strengths, taken to extremes, become liabilities: a firm manager becomes a dictator, for example.

Using a self-assessment tool called the DiSC® Dimensions of Behavior Map, Bredenberg divided the audience into Dominants, Influencers, Steadies, and Conscientious, and had each group list its strengths, peeves, non-monetary motivators--and then to draw a picture describing the group's ideal vacation.

Her point: each group bring different attributes to the table, and the successful leader must deal with each group differently. Dominants reach decisions quickly, are competent, active problem solvers who see themselves as more powerful than their environment; if a chair is in their way, they'll move the chair. They're task-oriented, so talk to them about results, bottom lines, solutions--or tell them they can't do something and step out of the way while they barrel ahead and achieve it!

Influences are enthusiastic, creative communicators, fast-paced and fiercely independent. Also seeing themselves as stronger than their environment, they want to be appreciated but not to be bossed around.

"You want the Steadies on your team," says Bredenberg. "They're actually working, while the high Ds are telling them what to do, the Is are talking about what to do, and the Cs are worrying about it." They're loyal, consistent, detail-oriented team members who move slowly but get the job done. They respond well to politeness, praise, and a sense of accomplishment. Rather than try to dominate their environment, they adapt t it; they'll walk around the chair.

And the Conscientious? They're thorough, analytical, focused on quality, conservative--they have a hard time with change. Yet they adapt to their environments, and Bredenberg thinks they're the most intuitive of the four styles. They can be perceived as negative because of their concern for quality and meeting high standards; and because they're quiet, it's a little too easy to steamroller over them.

Using the four styles, says Bredenberg, allows a leader to go beyond the Golden Rule (treat others as you' like to be treated) to the Platinum Rule: treat others as THEY would like to be treated.

Back to Top