A little while ago I started a discussion on LinkedIn about sustaining change. This soon turned into an exchange relating to leadership style, and specifically the pitfalls of competitive leadership.
On the one hand, some say a competitive leadership style and the winning culture is important. And on the other, that “winning” is a destructive force in business … especially when leading change.
I say we need cooperative leadership.
But what does this mean? And, why is it important when leading change?
Change should be driven by intrinsic motivators, those things that tug at people’s sense of equity and feelings of service or accomplishment. – John Shultz
Stick with me and I will explain. I’ll also show you that change should be driven by those things that tug at people’s sense of equity and feelings of service or accomplishment.
What’s more, you’ll see that competition and cooperation can work when used together to achieve the right outcome … for the right reason.
Winning Is Potentially Destructive
When we think of competition it’s usually a win-loose situation. Competition implies that someone else fails … this isn’t good for relationships. And, relationships are crucial when leading change.
What’s more, winning seeks compliance. It relies on the manager to persuade, cajole or demand people into accepting a vision for change. And, sooner or later this approach fails.
In most situations, cooperation is needed, where people work together for mutual benefit to achieve a shared business objective.
Success is not achieved by overcoming others but by encouraging cooperation.
Business change should lead to the creation of goods or services that meet or even exceed customer expectations. As we learn from John Kotter and Dan Cohen in their book The Heart of Change, employees can readily identify with satisfied customers because they want and expect reliable products and attentive services for themselves.
Also, people feel a sense of achievement and often generosity toward others because of association and the will to work together for the benefit of both business and customer.
This is cooperation.
Why Cooperation Always Works
Cooperation is neither soft nor weak. Rather, cooperation is about working with people to get things done. To get results quickly.
Cooperation propels the organisation forward.
Cooperation succeeds where competition fails because it is nice, tough, forgiving, and clear. But, what does this mean?
Let’s take a closer look …
The successful change leader knows the benefits of cooperation and forming alliances. They also know why relationships are important when leading transformational change.
The cooperative leadership style is appreciative, positive, confident and flexible. This means the change leader fully appreciates what people are saying and has sufficient self esteem to hear critical feedback. As such, they are flexible and open in their approach, and are equally happy to follow as to lead.
The cooperative leadership style uses the tit-for-tat strategy. This was first described by political strategist Robert Axelrod in the 1980s. While the goal is always to cooperate, the cooperative leader does need to be tough at times.
So, if someone is uncooperative the response is competitive … uncooperative behaviour is punished by capitalising on their mistake. And, when uncooperative behaviour ceases a return to cooperation follows.
The cooperative leader knows when it is necessary to smooth over awkward or rough patches to get back to business. They are confident, compassionate, and fair. They portray themselves with honesty and integrity, and have the confidence to share their feelings and to protect the feelings of others.
Above all, they can move on and move the team forward. Their example motivates and builds confidence. Progress is made.
The best outcome for business and customers is cooperation. Cooperation gets results … quickly. People know what needs to be done because the cooperative leader is clear about the task and so are others.
The cooperative change leader knows how to communicate the vision, but also knows how to encourage and listen to divergent points of view. Cooperative leadership isn’t about about working together in harmony, it is about finding the best path to a solution. This is achieved when employees have a say in what happens.
Winning is for the athletics field. Serving customers is the job of business. What do you think?
Creative Commons image courtesy valilouve.