While on a flight back to San Antonio, I watched an Amazon Prime documentary regarding the leadership skills required from CIA directors.

One comment that caught my attention was the following: “There’s no need for a heavy hand when managing people.

There are many who believe that great leaders are in the business of telling others what to do. In other words, they have a heavy-handed approach to running their organizations.

Leadership in a Nutshell

I started learning business concepts in the 1980s, and most of the university textbooks describe three types of leadership styles:

  • Autocratic:It’s my way or the highway!” 
  • Democratic:Let me hear your ideas so that we can build consensus.”
  • Laissez-Faire:You know more about what to do than anyone else, including myself, so go for it!”

Heavy-Handed Approach

The most antiquated leadership style is autocratic. In this scenario, the employees look for direction from the leader. They will not take any action until they are told what to do. This is the type of company where people are scared about making mistakes.

Example: We recently hired a contractor to remodel the fireplace in the living room. It was clear from the beginning that the business owner, Rafael, led his employees by intimidation. When my wife called to work out the requirements and payment details, Rafael answered the phone, took the order, and confirmed the start date. Near the end of the first day of work, we asked the two employees the schedule for the rest of the project, and they responded: “You will have to ask the boss.” In fact, all future questions were answered in a similar way.

It was obvious that Rafael made it clear he made all the decisions. In other words, the workers are hired strictly to do the job. They can think only about the mechanics of the work, but they are not allowed to use their creativity unless it is cleared by the owner.

Time for a Change

The autocratic leadership style may have worked decently in the old days, but it is now an archaic way to lead. Today, the most successful leaders believe that openness, trust, and respect are critically important to long-term success.

In fact, the companies over-performing today are practicing a servant leadership style, which means that leaders encourage a diversity of thought, create a culture of trust, and practice an unselfish mindset.

This discussion reminds me of John 3:30: He must become greater; I must become less.

There is a flawed tendency to believe that as we climb the corporate ladder, we are more important than those people in the lower ranks. The fact is that we are just as replaceable as anyone else in the organization.

Becoming less signifies we are open to hearing what others have to say.

As Steve Jobs succinctly stated when asked about the strategy he followed while creating leading-edge products and services, “You have to run by ideas and not hierarchy.”