As a leader your behavior demonstrates where your focus lies. Studies at the University of Michigan broke down a leader’s focus into two basic categories. Below we explore those categories and some well know examples of each.
Production Centered Leader: Steve Jobs (Apple CEO)- Steve Jobs embodied the production-centered leader due to his singularly focused pursuit of success.
Advantage: Jobs was far from the norm of production-centered leaders. Leaders that can appear indifferent to their employees can struggle in inspiring them. Jobs combined a production-centered mentality with an innate ability to inspire. This type of leader is rarely clouded by concerns that direct them from their objective. Jobs had a desire for the high quality products that required employees to be willing to work as hard as Jobs did or risk, at the very least, being outside of the culture Jobs was attempting to accomplish. History has shown us that even those that did not like Jobs’ style appreciated his results-driven methods because they ultimately made Apple the global phenomenon it is today.
Disadvantage: Many who do not have Jobs’ inspirational talent may find this style of leadership ineffective in the grand scheme. A leader who even appears to have a lack of obvious concern for their staff will often risk some of those employees becoming disenchanted. This disenchantment may not be evident over time, but it is likely that by the time it is apparent the damage will be severe, or even irreparable.
Employee Centered Leader: Larry Page (Google CEO)- Larry page is a leader who is renowned for making Google a place where everyone wants to work.
Advantage: Page is a leader who is always looking to provide his employees with an optimal work experience. Page has been taking employee concerns and desires into account in the hope of producing an environment where people can and want to give maximum effort. When you feel that your employer cares about your concerns it promotes a level of commitment and loyalty that is not easy to find. Google employees are known to have some of the best benefit packages in the corporate world, not to mention access to on site gyms, eateries, and even break rooms with various games. Google offers generous incentives that reward innovation and creativity. Google has obviously been extremely successful with this approach.
Disadvantage: The one key draw back is found when precautions are not taken to manage the over-rewarding of the employees. From all indications Google has struck an optimal balance, however managers with less foresight and experience could potentially stumble here if not careful.
ADVICE: Even though these two leaders have different behavioral styles, it is best to understand that their success is not based on being singularly production or employee centered. They in fact had to have some skill in both areas. Their behavior may be skewed to one direction on the other, and so will yours. There is nothing wrong with emulation, but seek to discover your own balance that highlights your attributes.
Consider two other successful leaders. How would you describe their leadership behavior? Much of who we are as leaders is emulated. Is there anything from their approach you would emulate as an organizational leader?
Finding the Sweet Spot: Concern for People vs. Concern for Production– Now that we have considered production centered and employee centered leaders you may have an ideal where your focus will lie as a leader, but you have to strike the right balance between your focus on people and production.
Low Concern for People/Low Concern for Production (Indifferent)– This is obviously a poor way to manage in any industry. Attempting to get work done with the least possible effort, while simultaneously demonstrating little concern for employees in the way of benefits or a satisfactory work environment can only lead to a short tenure in management or the inevitable downfall of a company.
High Concern for People/ Low Concern for Production (Accommodating)- This type of manager goes out of the way to ensure the comfort and satisfaction of the employees and in so doing inadvertently allows production to become secondary and often take a hit. This type of manager may be popular with their staff, but may not be so lauded by whomever they report to.
Low Concern for People/ High Concern for Production (Dictatorial)- This type of leader is unwaveringly focused on maximizing production to the point that employees are an afterthought. The employees are paid, and expected to do whatever is necessary to accomplish the goals that are given for them. The employees’ personal lives, frustrations, complaints, and feelings are of minimal importance. This manager may see limited results early on, but as employees reach their tolerance threshold, dissention soon follows, with lack of motivation and employee resignation not far behind. With high levels of dissatisfaction and turnover, this manager will struggle to find any meaningful long-term success.
High Concern for People/High Concern for Production (Sound)- This is the ideal way for a manager to lead. Though every leader should aspire to this type of management, it is a challenge for most leaders to maintain the equilibrium between results and employee satisfaction. The best leaders are able to do it. This leader does not rely solely on pleasing employees, but finds ways to inspire people to care and buy into the goals of the company. This leader fiercely pursues results, but understands the limits, strengths, and weaknesses and finds ways to maximize the talents of their employees. The employees may experience season of high demand, but because they have been placed in a role that suits them, they are more willing to work harder and smarter.
Moderate Concern for People/ Moderate Concern for Production (Middle of the Road)- Unfortunately, this is the spot many leaders fall into. For many reasons many accept mediocrity, because they are unwilling to take risks to be more effective, especially if their career goals are already being realized. Leaders who are uninspired themselves are not able to, nor do they care to inspire. If there is minimal incentive to find ways to produce more effectively, then a manger often settles for doing a solid job, but nothing more.
ADVICE: There are many more permutations that were not described. We only sought to cover the extremes and the average, but you will likely find a point on the grid where you find a workable and comfortable balance. Our goal is to point you away from the pitfalls of de-emphasizing either aspect too much or settling for less than your best.
By Kevin Dancy Follow @jdrock