Great Leadership Balances Support and Structure

Through my posts about the people side of business and about leadership you’ve probably noticed that our model stipulates the need for a balance of support and structure. Being able to nurture and support staff while simultaneously holding them accountable in a positive structure is no small trick. But it is precisely this balance that has people respond to leadership in a healthy manner.

Most people, whether in their leadership or parenting, tend to lean to one side of the support/structure continuum. You’ve seen those who are task masters and those who are softies. You may notice that you are more “by the numbers” or more relational. This tendency to lean a bit is natural. Great leaders work to hold the middle ground.

Often I’ve been asked how you can do both. The question will be phrased something like, “Doesn’t being supportive indicate that you won’t hold people accountable?” My simple answer is that this is not true at all.

In fact, perhaps paradoxically, support and structure are mutually enhancing. People who feel nurtured have an easier time taking difficult feedback. People respect structure and perform harder when they feel taken care of. The two components really do work together.

Your followers (employees, team members, kids) will scan you to see if you care. People read leaders carefully for their motivation, their concern, and their commitment to people, not just their technical knowledge of the business. The attitude inside the leader matters and you can’t fake it. If you genuinely balance support and structure, people will perceive it.

People are also very capable of reading many styles of caring. You could be a crusty old guy, but if you listen and are interested, people get it. You can be outgoing or more socially reticent. What matters most is what you have in your heart. Be your kind of caring leader, and make sure there is structure for success, and people will work hard for you.

Tom DeMaio, PhD

www.demaiopsychology.com

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