Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

Leadership is obviously an incredibly complex skill that encompasses a wealth of qualities, actions, behaviors and results. For as many aspects that go into leadership there are an equal number of trainings, suggestions, and how-to’s on making leaders more effective or creating leaders.

I’m not in the camp that says “Great leaders are born not made” but I do think certain people possess a self-awareness that at least gives them a headstart. Fortunately for all of us, there are learned qualities that we can develop that build on our natural tendencies.

Think about how difficult it is to get out of your comfort zone…whether in work or social settings. If you’re a quiet person and your boss asks you to attend a networking luncheon without a co-worker, it is probably a panic-inducing thought. But, is the answer to have leadership training on how to be more extroverted or gregarious?

Let’s put this into a leadership and team context: If you’re the leader of a team of pragmatic, data-driven people, does it mean that you as a leader must exhibit those qualities? Well, in some ways the answer is yes…a study from the University of Queensland Business School in Australia looked at how leaders interact with their teams and how these interactions drive performance. The findings are interesting:

The study examined the relationship between the leader as the knowledge builder, trust in the leader and in the team, knowledge sharing, and team performance. The results indicate that by building the team’s expertise, leaders enhance team members’ willingness to rely on and disclose information in the team, which in turn increases team knowledge sharing.

So although it’s not a blueprint on how to drive team interaction, the benefits are clear—higher trust, more knowledge sharing, and better team performance. So what is the magic bullet for leadership training? Of course there is none…but I think it goes to matching teams’ perspectives and work styles and building expertise by relying first on innate strengths.

Take the team we mentioned previously…in Emergenetics, this team clearly has a preference in Analytical Thinking. If you’re a team leader with a more right-brained thinking style (Social and Conceptual), you still need to connect analytically to win the team’s trust and build their knowledge (which as the study proved ultimately drives team performance). However, Analytical Thinking isn’t your primary strength. But, think about what you do well…looking at the big picture, defining a vision, connecting ideas, ensuring team dynamics and team collaboration.

What this leader should focus on is letting those team members come up with the plan and the logic to fulfill the vision. But get buy-in by clearly outlining why the big picture needs adjustment, how it is going to make the bottom line better…and most of all…solicit the team’s ideas and input. Respect their natural tendencies and they’ll respect yours.

Leadership training should start with natural instincts and build to grow capabilities and competencies that create the highest quality work and drive team performance across a broad spectrum of possible solutions.