Are you serving ‘leadership a la carte’? Well, stop it.

Do you wish your boss would let you pick and choose which leadership behaviors you want?  What if your boss then chose to “charge” you for those services through overtime, extra projects, or even future raises?

What the what?

Allow me to explain.

While browsing on LinkedIn, I read this article by Christopher Elliott which talks about the new a la carte approach to air travel – tickets are all that are guaranteed.  Luggage, carry-ons, even water are now added revenue, and gosh isn’t it wonderful? Because this lets customers pick and choose which services they want to pay for.  Which is what EVERYONE wants (anyway, that’s what the airlines would like you to think).

When people pay for a ticket, there are certain things they take for granted as part of the flying experience – such as an opportunity to bring your luggage.  Or drink some water.  Most people would be okay with paying a slightly higher airfare for the illusion that they are getting the experience they expected (see Southwest).air-fees-color-web

So let’s take this back to leadership…employees don’t always know what leadership behaviors they need from their supervisors.  As a result, they are seldom able to tell a manager how they are best led.  Ask any employee what kind of managing style they do best under, and at least 92.3% of them will say, “I hate micromanaging.”  First of all, many employees think being held accountable is micromanaging, and second of all, some employees NEED micromanaging until they learn the job.  So do we still think employees know what they need all the time?

As a leader, you’re responsible for adjusting your style to the needs of your employee – which means you better be able to apply a lot of different kinds of leadership.  And employees expect that of you – it’s part of the social contract of the manager/employee relationship, not a “nice to have”.  Employees will put up with a tougher workplace, longer hours, and provide discretionary effort (the “higher ticket price”) when they know they have a leader who has their back and will step in with the right approach when necessary.

If you suspect you’re an A la Carte Leader and want to change, try some of the following:

  • Schedule regular 1:1s with your employee (even if they don’t want it!)
  • Establish a level of trust by LISTENING (novel concept, I know)
  • Study different leadership models and styles to increase your toolbox (e.g., Situational Leadership, The Leadership Challenge, Strengths Based Leadership, etc.)
  • Accept that you are there to make your employees successful and provide the support they need

Employees don’t always know what they want exactly when they need it, but they DO know when their leader isn’t providing what they need.  Rather than thinking of yourself as an add-on, remember that you are part of the entire employment experience – employees expect and need your support.  And if you fail to give it to them, they WILL move on.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” 
–Max De Pree

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