Manage episode 373814738 series 1283444
The contrast was striking. I went from one boss, who was super demanding, scary even, to a very easy going leader. I thought, “this is good”, well, at least for a while. When I realised that he would agree with whoever was last in his office, I realised there was no core here. He was being nice to all and that meant he wasn’t taking any hard decisions, potentially upsetting some people. You would convince him on some course of action and then a colleague would waltz into his office and then next thing you know, the positions have been reversed. What is going on here, I wondered?
Was the first leader an Emotional Quotient EQ leader. Certainly not. He was a despot and a he ruled with an iron rod. You always knew where you stood with him and if he agreed to something, then he would stick with that decision. He was scary, but predictable. The second leader was definitely the EQ type – very caring, very sensitive to people’s feelings, considerate. He was unpredictable, because he was so easily swayed by trying to keep everyone happy.
Who was the bigger nightmare boss? I would say the EQ leader, because it was harder to get stuff done. Does the EQ leader have to be such a soft touch though? Was he just an extreme case? I would say so and there has to be a balance. The EQ leader doesn’t have to please everyone, but certainly has to be sensitive to people’s feeling and aspirations. There has to be a solid core though, so that once a decision is taken, the organisation can get to work and not have to reverse course, because the boss has suddenly been convinced to go the opposite direction.
If we think of most leaders we have worked for, they probably tended to be despots, more than EQ types. The generation of leaders after the Second World War were ex-military veterans back from the front and were applying a top down, highly directional model, very suitable for military life and death struggles. As we moved forward people started to realise the limitations of this model and wanted more from the leader.
Today we have younger generations coming into the workplace who just will not put up with despots. Okay, there are certain industries where despots can still reign, the numbers in the salary bands are astronomical, so people in that industry put up with bad boss behaviour because the payout is so huge. There are not many industries like this though. In Japan’s case there are many more jobs available than those looking, so job mobility is high and easy, so why put up with anyone you don’t like. That means the EQ boss is more in demand now because they have to be able to navigate the requirements of the team and keep people happy. The danger here though is can we get anything done if we are pandering to the egos and demands of relatively younger people, who are lacking in work years, wisdom and experience?
How do we get results and not have to become a despot to achieve that aim. The key is a different approach to leading. How do we find out the aspirations of the team members and get them to align those desires with the direction the company needs to move. One of the first lessons of leadership we face is that the people we lead are not the same as we are. They are motivated differently, have different values and assuming they want to be like us is delusional. We need to talk to them and find out what makes them tick and what they are trying to achieve. Ultimately, we want everyone to be happy and successful and for that to happen, the firm must prosper. It can prosper more easily if we are all feeling that the direction we are going is the right one.
Once we get the boss going one direction and the team the other, then trouble is right around the corner. Work is not a democracy though and sometimes the boss has to do things which are unpopular. Coming back to the office is the biggy at the moment. Many bosses want this but many staff don’t. So how to resolve this issue? Some companies just say come in or quit and make it a very easy choice. The economic conditions will impact how effective that threat is. As we rumble forward coming out of Covid, a lot of industries are struggling with too many staff, so firings are happening, which somewhat deflates the idea of refusing to work back in the office and quitting instead.
Generally speaking, the EQ boss knows their people well because they recognize this is an important part of their job as the boss. They try to make sure that the work environment is fulfilling and allows everyone to succeed, according their own individual definition of what success looks like. In Japan, many staff have aging parents, so success may look like having the flexibility take a parent to the hospital during work hours. If they are working mothers, it may mean going home earlier than everyone else or being able to leave the office during the day to pick up a sick child from their school. These types of boss flexibility have not been common in Japan, but must become more so.
The EQ boss knows that if they are fair, consistent and sensitive to the needs of the team, then the team will work diligently and with loyalty. They know that a bit of flexibility goes a long way and in fact becomes a moat to protect the firm from having recruiters trying to lift their people out of the organisation. Maybe the staff can make more money where the grass is greener, but they know there will be less flexibility and they may judge they would rather have the flexibility and will stay. The EQ boss makes sure that is the case.