Over many years of managing web design and development teams, I have had the honor of working with some amazing artists who carefully craft beautiful imagery and engaging graphics for their web projects. The concept of high production values and the importance of good quality visuals as leadership skills was something I learned from these talented artists early on.
For the purposes of this article, I will tell the story of Miguel, a mid-level manager with years of experience in freelance photography, video and web design.
As a freelancer, Miguel received many awards for his work in media campaigns and web projects. Because of his reputation and talent, Miguel was recruited a few years ago to lead the company’s media division.
Miguel is passionate about the overall quality of the work his team produces, and he is quick to tell everyone that doing quality work is imperative to the company’s brand and reputation.
He and his team leverage all their training plans to continuously develop their skills in image development and often deliver presentations at regional conferences on their areas of expertise.
An interesting issue is that colleagues in other teams don’t like working with Miguel. They find him arrogant and hard to work with on projects or in brainstorming sessions.
One of his colleagues openly rolls her eyes at Miguel and calls him a “broken” record, as he goes on and on about the importance of quality. Another employee gave Miguel the nickname, “the RIGHT man”, as Miguel is never wrong.
Whether we work for companies that develop mobile devices, design buildings, or graphic arts, quality is always highly important and we invest heavily to achieve it. When we employ artists that are difficult to work with and cause a lot of HR issues, we tolerate these things because of the quality of their work, but…
What About the Quality of Their Leadership?
Shouldn’t we value the quality of our leadership just as much, if not more, than we value that quality of our products? In the case of Miguel, while he delivers amazing quality, his approach and style actually make it difficult for other employees to be creative and contribute to projects. As a result, many talented employees leave the division or the company. Others simply refuse to work with him.
When Miguel is given feedback, he thanks people for their feedback but does not change his approach. While his work is amazing, it takes a lot of time and many projects are delayed in the name of quality.
Ironically, the quality of the imagery is negatively impacted as talented employees refuse to work with Miguel, when they could contribute greatly to the image of the company.
You may know a few people like Miguel and may be wondering what can be done to maintain quality work while engaging others and minimizing conflict. My suggestion is to place as much value on the quality of our leadership skills as we do on the quality of our deliverables.
While talented folks like Miguel should be evaluated for their skills in their area of expertise, they should also be held accountable for the quality of their leadership. This includes the way they lead their direct reports if they manage others, and their ability to lead and partner with others across the organization.
Organizational Development tools that can assist in this process include Myers-Briggs or the Medicine Wheel, and Miguel’s Strength Themes.
Miguel is an ENTJ in Myers Briggs, and, more than likely, a Warrior/Visionary on the Medicine Wheel. He has a tremendous amount of personal power and presence which he leverages to achieve his goals.
However, this personal power is also an agent of alienation and self-aggrandizement, which ENTJs must avoid if they want to engage and motivate others. If you are familiar with the medicine wheel, these traits are also common in people of the Warrior type, who are good at taking the lead but can be too critical of others and often bully them with the force of their personality.
Miguel’s supervisor can use Myers Briggs or the Medicine Wheel to coach Miguel on tempering his commanding presence so that it isn’t perceived as domination or cause his leadership to be off-balance.
The supervisor can use the language provided by each of these tools to enlighten Miguel regarding the down-side of his approach to others and how it is limiting the contribution of other employees. While it is great to have personal power and presence, too much of it is leading others to leave or avoid working with him. As good as Miguel is, no one should be allowed to alienate others, especially in leadership roles.
If Miguel is allowed to bully others and demotivate them, how can others be expected to behave differently?
Strengths Over Used Become Weaknesses
On the strength themes area, Miguel has Activator, Strategic, Empathy, Adaptability and Communication as his top 5 strengths themes. While these are wonderful strength themes to have, a basic premise of the strength movement is that we need to balance them. If we are not in balance with any of our strength themes, they actually become weaknesses.
Miguel’s tendency to take over meetings and harp on the importance of quality is more than likely his strategic strength out of balance. He truly understands the strategic imperative of quality but does not realize that his constant need to tell others about it comes across as preaching.
His Activator strength can easily turn into impatience, and this can lead any ENTJ or Warrior to bully others, especially when the person has authority.
The supervisor can coach Miguel on how to leverage his Empathy strength to understand how others feel when he imposes his personal power or continuously talks about the importance of quality.
Anyone who has the strategic strength should understand that it is not strategic when your colleagues don’t want to work with you. Miguel can use his Adaptability strength to adapt his approach to others and leverage his Communication strength to improve the way to deliver his message to others.
The Quality of Leadership Skills
The bottom line is that Miguel’s quality of leadership is as important, if not more important, than the quality of his deliverables. Just as he works on his design skills, he must work on his leadership skills.
This will help him engage others and want them to leverage his expertise instead of avoiding him. Just like Miguel uses an HD camera and software to help him develop the most engaging imagery possible, he can use Organizational Development skills to help him engage and motivate others.
By improving the quality of his leadership skills, Miguel can inspire the best in others, instead of provoking the worse from them.
How Would You Improve the Quality of Your Leadership Skills?
If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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