Leadership Style and Loyalty

by Cynthia on February 16, 2010

Leadership styles comes in many forms. Some time ago, I was talking with a client about what lessons she learned about leadership from the different managers she worked for.  She told me how early on in her career she had worked for a dynamic and brilliant manager, lets call him Bob, whose leadership style allowed him to rise rapidly in his organization, and whose staff was known for showing him great loyalty.  I was surprised when she added that this man taught her what not to be as a leader. Why, I wanted to know, was his leadership style an approach she didn’t want to follow?

She explained that Bob’s leadership style, the method he used to build loyalty and cohesion in his group, was to fight hard for his direct reports, make sure they got every perk and privilege the organization could bestow.  When his employees got great results they often basked in the glow of his effusive and public praise.  But when they made decisions that were different from what Bob would have made in a given situation, he was equally unmerciful in his criticism.  And it was very hard to predict what might set Bob off, so his staff ended up paralyzed by their efforts to predict what courses of action might provoke his quirky negative reactions.  My client observed that, like many who worked for Bob, she ended up working in a state of constant low level fear, feeling deeply doubtful of her own abilities and dependent on his occasional praise to build back the confidence she was rapidly losing in herself.

It wasn’t until she left Bob and went to work with a new boss that she realized how destructive Bob’s leadership style had been for her– not only to her self-esteem, but also to her ability to learn and grow, and to her sense of connection to the larger organization and its mission.  She told me this experience taught her to be more observant, not just about whether or not leaders generated loyalty in their staffs, but also the kind of loyalty generated by their leadership styles.

Since that conversation, I, too, have been finding this phenomenon an interesting thing to observe: what kind of loyalty is generated by a given leader, a given leadership style?

What do you observe as you look at the leaders around us today?

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