There’s a New Type of Leader Out There

As someone who sometimes runs leadership training courses, I am always intrigued by the different leadership styles adopted by people.

I was therefore fascinated by the profile of Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, in The Times on Saturday.

Succeeding Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Mr Nadella is a very, very different type of leader, radiating calmness and empathy as opposed to the more bombastic leadership style of his predecessors, particularly Ballmer. At first, employees were sceptical (it was change and people typically don’t like change), but his empathetic and quiet style of leadership has been a huge success.

With all these things, however, leadership ultimately isn’t about being liked, it’s about success.

And under his watch, Microsoft’s share price has doubled.

Mr Nadella’s approach reminded me of a survey I saw recently. As part of this survey, business leaders were questioned about what they thought their employees would say, if they were asked what they wanted from a leader. The business leaders, not unreasonably, suggested their employees would put forward words like vision, drive, focus and even ruthlessness.

The survey then asked employees what they wanted from their business leaders, and the response was this: the number one attribute employees wanted from their leaders was for those leaders to show genuine concern for their wellbeing.

Wow! I didn’t see that one coming. And it’s the word genuine that jumps out at me. It’s got to be real, it’s got to be authentic, the leader really does have to show they care.

And when you think about it, then of course that makes sense. I personally have always been sceptical about the brash, bold, over the top approach to ‘motivating’ employees. Steve Ballmer typified this leadership ‘style’, often leaping around at company rallies, screaming: ” I love this company.” (Well of course you do! It’s made you zillions!!) But the point is, why would anyone else love it? Which reminds me of the brilliant David Brent line: ” There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that the office is relocating and you are all losing your jobs. The good news? I’ve been promoted.” Every cloud…

The message then is that leaders need to empathise, show concern and always be mindful that what motivates them might not motivate others. It requires brilliant listening skills and for that you need to ask the right questions.

So, a question for all you leaders out there. When was the last time you sat down with your employees, asked them about their aspirations, and REALLY listened to the answers. And then acted upon them.

If you’re not doing this, then you’re not the leader that your employees say they want.

Ken Deeks is a trainer, coach and business adviser for The Amber Group