Leadership Style of an Independent Executive (Part 1)
The leadership style of an independent executive is unique to your personality, but there are certain qualities you can adopt to excel
Leaders have different management/ leadership styles and expectations, but what works for some might not work for others. An executive’s chances for success depend on multiple factors, including their personality, past experiences, why they’re being brought in, and the type of project they’re working on.
Because of the temporary and dynamic nature of their work, independent executives need to be flexible in their leadership style. They need to switch styles to manage client expectations as well as get the job done. This may require varying styles within the same company, depending on the culture, individual personalities, and what needs to be accomplished.
Vary Your Approach to Fit the Situation
Independent executives are often brought in specifically to help change or form a leadership process in the organization. Because they’re brought in to fill a role temporarily and at a time of change, there’s a lot of inconsistency. The independent executive’s primary purpose is to bring consistency to the situation. This can often be a challenge because many people are resistant to change; the executive needs to adjust accordingly.
Sometimes you may feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with multiple personalities on a given day, depending on what situation you’re in, which company you’re in, what the culture is, and with whom you’re working throughout the organization. There isn’t a black-and-white line among the various personalities and work styles. Sometimes it is a subtle difference. These subtle differences can either help to rebuild or cause additional turmoil in a company.
Matching Leadership Style to a Situation
There are great assessment tools to help you match your leadership style to a situation. These don’t zero in on the exact personality of leaders but instead describe their work style.
Two executives may have the exact same skill set and knowledge, but how they address the situation, how they work within it, and their approaches can make one successful and the other fail. Matching the executive’s leadership style with the company’s culture, executive team, CEO, and situation is key.
For example, if the CEO of a growing company is accustomed to doing most things him- or herself, it is sometimes difficult to transition the work and trust others to do it thoroughly and well. The result is a period of micromanagement. If we are placing a part-time executive in a CFO role to work with this CEO, we will look for one who works well with micromanagers and can be patient, understanding, and communicate well through the transition. Not every executive works well in that kind of environment. Understanding your work style and what the client needs or expects can be critical.
Striking the Right Balance in your leadership style
According to the University of San Diego, leadership can be categorized into three kinds of interpersonal behaviors: aggressive, nonassertive, and assertive. Aggressive leaders humiliate employees and get what they want at the expense of others. Nonassertive leaders do not express their ideas and wants and as a result often do not get what they want, resulting in pent-up anger and resentment. Assertive leaders stand up for their ideas in ways that do not violate the rights of others, creating respect between themselves and their subordinates. The last kind of leader strikes the right balance by often getting what they want and at the same time feeling good, valued, and respected in the workplace.
One of the many abilities of effective leaders is to be aggressive when the situation demands it, or assertive as needed. They switch according to the demands of the situation. But executives who leave a permanent position in an organization for an interim one have to learn to play the field according to the client’s expectations. It’s a big change for them to no longer be in charge and align with what that CEO or board requires.
Measuring, Tracking, and Results—The Impact
Quite a bit can be accomplished during an engagement. Measuring and tracking the results and impact of your efforts is important and very little says it better than numbers. Keeping track of what you achieved, both qualitatively and quantitatively, can help keep everything in perspective.
Clients can be your best advocates in the marketplace with referrals and repeat business. Take the time to communicate, stay on the same page, and do the right thing for your clients. It can either come back to help you in dividends or haunt you.