One of our leadership coaches was asked a question this week regarding communicating as an authoritative leader. The question arose because the client’s higher level leader had suggested that she may find value in applying Goleman’s Situational Leadership Model.
She understood applying Goleman’s model – made up of six styles – relies on being flexible, adapting to the existing work environment and the needs of the organisation. She also agreed with Goleman’s contention that the authoritative style is very effective. It works well dealing with problems or challenges through clear goal identification leading to successful outcomes. This style allows team members to figure out the best way to achieve those goals.
She reasonably concluded that if not approached correctly there is a danger that authoritative communication may instead be perceived by others as use of positional power by the leader.
After deeper discussion this leader arrived at the following set of guidelines to frame her communication as an authoritative leader:
- Understand what authority you have. Once it is established and you, as a leader, are clear about that, accept and own it.
- Focus on the goal or outcome, not on popularity. She recalled the old cliché that leadership is not about being popular; rather it is about being respected. This meant there will be times when tough calls have to be made and communicated.
- Appropriate use of the three Vs – visual, vocal, and verbal. Visual from the perspective of being particularly careful with non-verbal cues as they are always open to interpretation. Vocal, it’s essential the right tone and pace matches the situation. Verbal in the sense of the right choice of language to give yourself the best opportunity to be understood by your audience.
- Constructively hold the line. Have the courage of your convictions. This leader felt if she didn’t truly believe in her position she couldn’t expect others to accept what she was intending to do. Don’t become defensive if challenged, instead listen and provide a considered assertive response, not an aggressive one.
- Face people being impacted by the action or decision. Avoid email, text, and social media. Talk directly with team members and be willing to answer questions.
- Be respectful, open, and confident in any discussion or presentation. If there is rebuttal to your ideas and approaches as they are expressed, accept that what the person is saying is true for them, even if you know it not be. Use your knowledge and skill appropriately to correct the misinformation. This is tough to do if it is not coming from a place of respect.
Applying situational leadership is challenging. Being authoritative as a leader and a communicator comes more naturally to some than others, particularly if you are new into a leadership role. Consider blending the techniques above with your own natural style, whether that’s through spontaneity, humour, creativity, or stories, to deliver communication in ways that are congruent for you.
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