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5 Tips to Strengthen Weak Leadership (and 4 more for staff dealing with it)

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  1. Have an opinion. Sometimes leaders hide behind group decision making. That may work for a time, but in pandering to the group and trying to keep everyone happy, what's the result? Decisions that are neither imaginative, creative nor inclusive. Leadership is about experimentation, recalibration, and implementation. Experiment.

  2. Don't be afraid of feedback. Feedback is the lifeblood of creativity. You need it and so does your museum and your team. If you shut your team down, they learn not to offer an opinion. Instead, listen, listen, listen. Ask questions. When you speak, incorporate what you heard with your own path toward mission and vision.

  3. Share what you know. This sounds like a no-brainer, but there are leaders who either out of fear or a need to control, don't talk to their staff. You are the bridge between the board and the staff. You see the big landscape. Tell your staff what's on the horizon.

  4. Participate. This is a mash-up of numbers one and three. Your team needs to hear what you think. You don't have to go first, but make sure you've spoken by mid-way through the discussion. And for goodness sake don't just reiterate the ideas already on the table.

  5. Don't avoid confrontation. Your staff needs you. Don't be afraid to wade in and help quell dissension. If tensions escalate between staff members, call them together and talk it out. On the contrary, if you're a follower and some of this sounds familiar, you may work for a weak leader. You need to do your job, while simultaneously collaborating with colleagues to shore up your leader's weak spots.

  6. Learn who your leader is. By understanding her personality and leadership style, you may be better able to experiment and make change. For example, if she's a slow processor, it's probably better to present a new initiative in writing followed by a meeting. If she's still a mystery, sit down with colleagues who seem to get along with her and talk.

  7. Triangulate: One of the oldest workplace tricks in the book. Make friends with your leader's friend or confident. Take them with you when you need to present a new idea or program.

  8. Ask for help: Even if it kills you, asking a weak leader's opinion about something builds trust, allows you a peak into her brain, and makes her feel like she has a voice.

  9. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Weirdly, many weak leaders have strong teams. Why? Because one of the ways to make change is through coalition. When the meeting agenda appears, work with your colleagues to anticipate discussion and get the outcome you want. Think about what happens at your staff or department meetings. If you trace  engagement across the table, drawing a line from one speaker to another, would you have a spider web of interaction or do all the lines radiate from one or two spots, dying a slow death in the center of the table? Is your leadership a presence or an absence? How does your team create connection? Joan Baldwin

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