What does good leadership mean?
A good leader is a person that you trust, and who show confidence in their team and coworkers. It is a person who care about their staff for real, and is thoughtful and empathic. It is also a person who is clear about where we are going and why, and who can break this down into measurable targets.
One of the most important tasks for a leader is to create the right conditions for a good work environment and high engagement and wellbeing among their coworkers. A good lead leader creates conditions for high engagement and wellbeing by working with three basic psychological needs that all people want: autonomy, togetherness and competence.
Daniel Pink, an American writer and lecturer, has among other things studied how U.S Navy Seals promote team members and leaders to their top elite units. They obviously look at performance, but a factor that actually weighs heavier is trust. Is the person that we promote a person that others have confidence in?
Why do so many incompetent men manage to become leaders?
In an article in DN September 2022 (in Swedish), the subject was why so many incompetent men manage to become leaders. They interviewed the organizational psychologist and writer Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who had studied which leaders we choose and what consequences this has. He has also written the book “Why do so many incompetent men become leaders”. The short answer to why so many incompetent men become leaders is that leaders are often chosen based on their confidence, and not their competence as leaders. Men tend to have higher confidence than women, also when it is not backed up by talent or competence, says Chamorro-Premuzic to DN.
The article in DN is food for thought. How do we normally promote leaders in different organizations? How do we work with development of coworkers and leaders through 1:1 meetings or performance reviews? This is often handled by a “performance management” process, aiming to get the coworker or leader to develop their competence to deliver a good business result. This in turn means that most leaders are high performing coworkers who have achieved strong results and consequently get to lead others. But just because you are the one who sell the most or the best at designing, does this mean that you are the best to lead others and make them perform at a maximum?
Is trust management more important than performance management?
What happens when we promote people to leaders purely based on their performance? Unfortunately, this happens in several organizations. They have not evaluated other important leadership traits such as the ability to build trust – which is most important of them all. It trust between leader and coworkers is lacking, it is difficult, and probably impossible, to maximize the team’s performance and wellbeing. Leaders who perform well themselves but who others lack confidence in, exercise a leadership that is devastating for the coworkers. It will create stress and poor performance in the team, and staff will probably leave (the yellow field in the picture above).
The worst leaders are the ones who neither perform nor create trust (red field – yes, unfortunately such leaders exist). We obviously want to strive for leaders who are both the best performers and where the confidence is at the top. But it is also fine if the leader’s performance is a little bit below the top performers, as long as the trust is at the top (the green field in the picture above) That is how the U.S Navy Seals argue when they select the people to promote to their absolutely best teams, and that line of thinking is something that also companies and other organizations should be inspired by.
It is time to talk more about “trust management” and less about “performance management” when we choose who should be leaders in our organizations. How do you work with promoting leaders in your organization? How do you work with “trust management”?