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What style of leader are you?

It has been said that after meeting the great British Prime Minister William Gladstone, you left feeling he was the smartest person in the world. However, after meeting his rival Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking you were the smartest.

It’s a great historical comment regarding leadership styles. I heard Liz Wiseman speak recently (co-author of Multipliers) on the topic. She asked participants to think of a boss who had made them feel great and as a result how we ‘performed’ for that boss. Then to think about a boss who made us feel smaller.

Liz outlined that leaders who make people feel smarter (multiply) as opposed to leaders who make people feel smaller (diminish) will get more than double the capability from those people. She said it is like releasing the power of genius in everyone. Growing without one additional team member.

There is an online test that you can do to find out if you are an ‘accidental’ diminisher – it is worth the ten minutes to complete.

I clearly remember my manager at Ansett Airlines never making time for me. I almost had to beg for her to see and review whatever I had been working on. If she did finally bestow some of her precious time on me I usually left feeling like an idiot because of the way she would say, ‘Why didn’t you….’

Contrast this to the manager I had at Apple a few years later who always prioritized our weekly one-on-one meetings. I felt she was truly interested. I felt I could ask questions, and that we ‘we’re in this together.’ The result? I worked ten times harder, I felt challenged and was proud when I finished a project. I was definitely contributing my ‘genius.’

It is great to be authentic. It is what we want most from our leaders. But I am sure there is a way to be authentic without diminishing people’s efforts, to inspire them, challenge them and make them feel great about what they do every day.

What do you think? Have you experienced great authentic leadership? Or perhaps been diminished?

Naomi Simson, CEO, and Founder of RedBalloon left a serious corporate career in marketing to set up RedBalloon in 2001. Now Australia and New Zealand’s most awarded gift retailer, the company has been listed in the BRW fast lists for the past seven years.

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