The Key to Leadership Is to Know When to Push or Pull
Leadership is an important element within your organization that can either make or break your business. You need to have good leaders who can help your employees reach their full potential to be a successful company.
The problem is successful leadership is not an easy thing to achieve. Since there are many factors to consider such as the context and the different personalities of your employees, being an effective leader at all times can be difficult. But it is not impossible.
With practice as well as finding the right balance, you can rise to the occasion and become a good leader.
Role of Leadership in an Organization
Leadership is the act of influencing the overall productivity and effectiveness of individuals towards one desired outcome. Aside from setting the direction, leaders also serve as an inspiration for employees as someone they look to for guidance.
According to research made by Gallup, 70 percent of employees in the United States are not fully committed to their work.¹ They are not able to deliver their best performances because they lack proper leadership.
In another survey done by O.C. Tanner, a total of 79 percent of employees tend to quit their jobs due to a lack of appreciation from their managers.²
These statistics suggest that leadership plays a vital role in the performance and retention of employees. Whether a leader is lacking motivational skills like in the first data or communication skills, it is evident that leadership competencies matter in the success of your organization.
Listed below are five things a good leader can contribute to their team and to their company.
- Direct Motivation – A good leader can inspire their team members and motivate them to efficiently finish their tasks at hand. Through good attitude, clear direction, and proper example, a leader can encourage engagement and productivity.
- Drive Innovation – Instead of rigidly sticking to old ways, good leadership encourages people to innovate and create. A leader should be able to cultivate an environment where it’s safe for employees to communicate their thoughts and opinions to everyone without fear of judgement.
- Build Connection – A company with admirable leadership can form valuable relationships between its employees. They can create opportunities for people to connect which can lead to better teamwork and collaboration.
- Remove Confusion – To be a good manager, you should be clear in setting goals and objectives you want your people to achieve. This means having the power to clear confusions through giving proper guidance and direction.
- Effective Decisions – Good business leaders are those that can objectively weigh the pros and cons of a situation despite any pressure they may be under. So, with good leaders, a company can feel at ease in whatever direction they lead their members in.
The Two Gears of Leadership
Similar to mechanical gears, leadership involves two important parts namely ‘the push’ and ‘the pull’. As the name suggests, they represent two different approaches that leaders can use in effectively guiding their teams towards success.
Push: Take Charge
When leaders push their team members, it means they are taking charge of the situation. They are pushing projects and tasks forward by controlling the pace and direction. This is demonstrated when leaders actively tell what every individual should focus on. They also set clear deadlines they expect to be followed.
In taking charge, leaders are assuming responsibility for the entirety of the project which includes individual work and output. This doesn’t equate to micromanaging. It only means they are responsible for proper dissemination of tasks as well as the time management needed for every project.
Leaders who use this method are proactive in pushing their team towards their goals. Moreover, they usually are decisive, experts at critical thinkers and good at problem solving since the pressure of quick decision-making falls under their job description.
Pull: Step Back
The pull method applies the opposite force of pushing. Instead of being assertive and leading the team in one direction, pull means you are willingly taking one or two steps backward.
It involves clearing the way for your employees to manage their own productivity. This type of leadership empowers every individual to meet their expected quotas without needing any reminders.
Some leaders prefer this method since it fosters collaboration and teamwork between their employees. Moreover, it builds trusts between the entire team while advocating for everyone to take charge of their own work.
Although they have taken a step back, it doesn’t mean that a manager with this leadership style has little tasks compared to someone who takes charge. In this method, leaders focus more on providing guidance and support to their employees so high emotional intelligence is a must. This guidance can be in the form of giving advice or having one-on-one meetings with employees if they deem it necessary.
Striking the Perfect Balance
Now that you’re aware of the different leadership styles, you may be wondering which one is the best to use. Which among the two methods do great leaders apply?
According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, only two percent of 100,000 leaders equally use both methods of leadership.³ Despite this low percentage, they also found that combining both push and pull tactics generate the highest levels of engagement from employees.
Based on data, having effective leadership skills mentioned on both methods are necessary to become the best leader. You simply need to find the perfect balance between the two.
5 Tips to Balance the Push and the Pull
With so many leadership qualities to enhance, it can be time consuming to put in the effort of finding the right balance for your people. But, doing so can generate better outcomes for both the team and the company in general.
Below are five actionable tips you can do to determine the perfect balance of the two leadership strategies.
1. Take note of the context.
You need to understand that every situation is different since there are many factors at play. Consider the goal, time constraint, and possible challenges of a situation to decide which style to use.
For example, there is a collaborative project for a client. They gave their approval for your proposal a week late. But your company needs to produce products fast. In this scenario, time is of the essence so pushing forward and taking charge is a good idea to ensure things are running smoothly.
2. Get to know your team members.
Another factor that can affect the leadership method is the people you handle. To fully gauge the best tactic, you need to know your employees. This includes understanding their skills, talent, strengths, and weaknesses. Once you know their individual quirks and capabilities, you can decide if they are actually capable of finishing the tasks alone or not.
Imagine there is an error in the latest program your team developed. Although it seems quite complicated at first glance, your employees show self-confidence they can fix the issue within an acceptable period. Since you know that they have the skills and expertise to solve it, you can step back and let them work.
3. Continuously assess the situation.
There are times where workload can change difficulty without any warning. You need to continuously assess a situation throughout different parts of the process. Use your observational and critical thinking skills to decide if a leadership tactic is still the most effective one to use or if you need to shift gears.
For example, your team encountered a roadblock, and you chose to step back and let them handle the problem, but you’ve noticed they are still having difficulty. After assessing the situation, you observed they are unknowingly creating more issues with the software. In this scenario, it’s best to shift from pulling to pushing as you take charge of the repairs.
4. Seek different perspectives.
Effective leaders aren’t only those with distinguishable leadership skills. They are also the bosses and managers who have the patience for active listening and communicating with their people.
One of the most effective ways of striking a balance between the two leadership gears is asking your employees. Ask for their thoughts and opinions about how you lead. It’s important to actively look for perspectives that can help you improve the balance of stepping back and stepping forward.
5. Assess individual and group performance.
Aside from listening to what employees have to say, a great leader also uses objective lenses in viewing performances. This requires you to organize data and analyze it. Which method generated the most profit? Which style increased the productivity of employees?
Once you analyzed the data, take time to reflect. Think about all the previously mentioned factors that could have affected their performance. Afterwards, create a plan based on your conclusions from the assessment.
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1 Sorenson, Susan, and Keri Garman. “How to Tackle U.S. Employees’ Stagnating Engagement.” Gallup, 11 Jun. 2013, news.gallup.com/businessjournal/162953/tackle-employees-stagnating-engagement.aspx?g_source=link_newsv9&g_campaign=item_167975&g_medium=copy. Accessed 19 Jul. 2023.
2 Tanner, O.C. “A New Benchmark for Initiating Employee Engagement, Retention and Results.” White Paper, www.octanner.com/content/dam/oc-tanner/documents/global-research/White_Paper_Performance_Accelerated.pdf. Accessed 19 Jul. 2023.
3 Folkman, Joseph. “To Get Results, the Best Leaders Both Push and Pull Their Teams.” Harvard Business Review, 24 May 2022, hbr.org/2022/05/to-get-results-the-best-leaders-both-push-and-pull-their-teams. Accessed 19 Jul. 2023.