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by Jason Goldberg
Over the years, in viewing others and reflecting upon my own leadership style I have seen a vast array of differences and similarities. I wanted to take the opportunity today to funnel all of my research and experience with leadership styles down to what I think is a very simple concept…Mattresses!
In my experience, there have been 3 kinds of mattresses, firm, soft and of course the revolutionary memory foam varieties. I will leave waterbeds out of this example as the 80’s are a decade best left to nostalgia in other forms.
Let’s examine these mattress/leadership styles. While you are reading, start to think about which is your primary style and recognize any style that you encounter from others on a regular basis.
The “Firm” Leader:
We all know this type; command and control; results, results, results! This person has a vast amount of authority typically based on their role or title and you as a follower are expected to fall in line. Inspiration and engagement are not typically in this type of leader’s vocabulary. They believe that the need to stay in compliance with the rules and requirements is enough to drive the employees to achieve. Though it sounds like a dictatorship, this style is not all bad. There is a focus by the “Firm” leader to an adherence to processes, procedures and measurable metrics and outputs. These measurements are extremely important in ensuring operational efficiency, without which organizations may just flail about without ever knowing where they stand or how they can improve.
This leader may earn respect but not trust. The focus here is on results first and relationships second.
The “Soft” Leader:
This is the best bud boss; personable, often times supportive and collaborative. The leader you can tell all of your problems to and they will empathize and want more than anything to help you solve your issues, whether they are personal or professional. Some may refer to this as “touchy-feely” leadership (something that causes the “Firm” leader to shudder), and it can be if taken to an extreme. Often times the “Soft” leader is so concerned with being liked that they will make popular decisions instead of the right decision, they will shy away from conflict and debate (even when its healthy and ultimately improves the situation), and may provide a disservice by not giving constructive feedback as needed or accepting constructive feedback as it may seem like a personal attack instead of the recommendation for improvement that it should be.
This leader may earn trust but not respect. The focus here is on relationships first and results second.
The “Memory Foam” Leader:
This one is a bit trickier. In my opinion, the memory foam leader is focused more on their impact than on an actual style of leadership. This leader focuses on communication, charisma and engagement.
Compared with the first two styles, this leader is probably more “Soft” than “Firm” and is more aware of their own intentions and impressions than the other two types.
I think back to the commercials advertising this mattress and remember the well-groomed hand being pushed down into the bed and the fully-formed hand-print being left behind when the hand was removed. It was clear that the intention when pressing down on the bed was to make a hand-print and the impact left behind matched up perfectly; no confusion there.
This is the goal of the “Memory Foam” leader, to align their intentions with their impact when delivering their message and to ensure that the message intended is the message received. They aim to remove ambiguity and uncertainty, to exhibit control without dictating and to strengthen bonds without sacrificing achievement of the goals at hand. In fact, if executed properly, connections are strengthened and outcomes are improved as a result of such a style.