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Strict or Soft: the problem with extremes

Some leaders are too strict with their teams. Others are too soft. There are problems with being at either extreme.

Soft leaders

Soft leaders should not be in leadership positions. They seldom build excellent companies. They rate avoiding conflict higher than they rate setting standards and enforcing them. If these leaders do build excellent companies, it is often because they have deputies that have the real control.

When leaders are more interested in being liked than they are in developing their people, they accomplish neither – they fail to bring out the best in their people, and while they may be liked, are usually not respected. Often, they are pitied by their teams – pitied for being too soft, for allowing people to be slack, sometimes allowing people to get away with outrageous behaviour.

These leaders are most likely to keep the wrong people and by failing to set and enforce standards, harbour mediocrity in their teams. They most often fear their teams, fearing that if they call people out on unacceptable standards, those people will leave.

Occasionally these leaders do have winners on the team, but the winners soon move on once they lose respect for their soft leaders.

Strict leaders

Leaders can be too hard on their people, too. But strict leaders are often strict about everything and can micromanage to a point where their people are afraid to show initiative, and even more afraid to convey bad news to their leader.

These leaders often fail to celebrate results and, while they are quick to point out what people have done wrong, can feel awkward metering praise to their people. Their offices are often dour places to work, with very little fun.

One leader I know recently forbade his two salespeople to have lunch together. What did he think was going to happen – a conspiracy? I can’t even call this strict leadership – it’s downright dumb leadership. This leader has precisely ZERO salespeople now!
Some wear their strict leadership as a badge of pride, but being too strict can be as ineffective as being too soft. Strict leaders lose people, many who could have become winners had they received good leadership.

Extremes

Extremes of strict and soft are not good. I am not suggesting middle ground either.

Good leaders set standards for their people and, when people fall short of those standards, they are counselled, retrained if necessary, and terminated if they continue to fall short of the standard. If termination is required, they do it swiftly, but always with kindness and compassion.

But there are times when leaders must also allow minor things to pass without comment. Teams can get under pressure and leaders must release the pressure occasionally, or good people will leave. A bit of fun does wonders.

Good leaders have range in their leadership styles. Strict when necessary, uncompromising when necessary and soft on occasions. Always we must show our people that they are important to us, and the best way to show that is to be interested in them, and work at bringing out the best in them.

Avoid the extremes, they burn good people and kill profit.

Gary Pittard

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