Leadership Styles V Leadership Skills

leadership styles V leadership skills

Mike Gaffney breaks down the differences between leadership styles V leadership skills and discusses the role both play in helping business owners and team leaders build successful organisations. As Mike points out, it is essential for leaders to understand their audience but it’s also crucial for leaders to be honest and authentic and avoid ‘putting on an act.’

Leadership Styles
Goleman describes different leadership styles – coercive, authoritative, democratic and so on – but essentially there are two factors that will affect business leaders and their leadership style. One is the circumstances of the situation they find themselves in. For example, if you’re a sports coach leading the under 10 football team, the leadership style you would use with children of that age would be very different than the style you would use with senior county players. So you have to choose a leadership style that is appropriate to the audience you are working with.

The second thing is that individual leaders need to understand their own capability in terms of the audience they are best suited to. Again, using the sports analogy, you could have a coach who is brilliant with leading adult teams and achieves great success with them but is utterly lost when it comes to leading children’s teams. That coach just doesn’t know how to connect with the young team and of course it happens the other way around too. Some coaches may have a real flair for inspiring and leading youth teams but may not be effective at all when faced with an adult team. So when it comes to leadership style, the leader must first understand the audience that he or she is dealing with and they must be confident that they can successfully apply their leadership style to that particular group.

The Authentic Leader
To put on a style that isn’t you would be a huge error because the most important quality in any team leader is authenticity. Employees want to see a leader who is comfortable in their own skin and is genuine and is not putting on an act. People would rather have a leader who may stumble from time to time but they are genuine, rather than a leader putting on an act that they think their audience wants to see. People can see through that act, they know it’s false and that’s when the leader loses all credibility.

So authenticity is crucial for any leader, be it a business owner or team leader within an organisation.

People generally warm to those leaders who are natural and comfortable in their own skin. They don’t necessarily have all the answers and don’t pretend to. Showing ourselves to be human is actually a strong trait in a leader. If you hear employees describe their boss as a ‘natural leader’ they are describing someone who is really just being themselves and not putting on an act.

Leadership Programme DublinSo a great leader doesn’t have to fit the stereotype of a tough military-style, aggressive leader?
Not at all, that’s more of a lazy media representation of leadership, like the brash and egotistical image of Donald Trump. Actually, the most effective business leaders out there are the quiet types who are working away in the background making their businesses work successfully and they don’t seek any attention for what they do. These are people with a genuine passion for what they do; people who have built up a level of expertise in their field and who are very persistent. Employees and management teams trust them. The tribe will always follow somebody that they believe will help them create a better future for them and their family. They will trust the company where they feel safe and feel they are looked after in terms of confident leadership, promotion opportunities and job security.

Leadership Skills
There is a tendency, particularly in the corporate sector, for people to think that the more senior the leader the more skills they have to have. So if you are junior manager you might be good at communication or good at time management, but as you move into more senior roles you must be a great communicator, be more charismatic, be an influencer or have high motivational skills. The list of requirements gets longer and longer. When you look at it, the Richard Bransons of the world and some politicians, haven’t got a wide range of leadership skills. They have a few skills that they are particularly good at. For example, Richard Branson is a great PR man and he just keeps applying that skill to promote the Virgin brand.

Take great political leaders like Harry Truman. He was an ordinary man from Missouri and he is widely considered to be one of America’s most effective presidents after Washington and Lincoln. He was a farm boy, never went to college but he had honesty, integrity and decisiveness. He trusted his instincts and people trusted his leadership.

His skill was in taking ownership of his responsibilities and handling the pressures of the office of president.

He listened well to others but he also trusted his gut and made clear decisions. OK some decisions he made were wrong, he didn’t always get things right. But he led his team and he wasn’t afraid to make difficult decisions or to accept responsibility for the outcomes. There are a lot of people surrounding the leader who would not like to be in that position of having to make the tough decisions. The pressure and responsibility of that would be too much for many people.

Interview with Des Kirby

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What Leaders Really Want From Managers

what leaders really want from managers_

What do business leaders really want from their managers? Is it their experience, knowledge and technical expertise?

These things are important to business leaders when they recruit people into management positions. However, as LEAP MD Mike Gaffney explains, what leaders really want from managers more than anything else is for them to take ownership of the role of manager. That means making decisions, fully committing to them and taking responsibility for outcomes.

Take Ownership
The number one requirement that leaders want from managers is for managers to take ownership for their area of responsibility. That means making decisions, dealing with the problems in their area and generally getting on with the job and delivering on their department’s objectives.

They want managers to stop looking over their shoulder waiting for approval or permission to make decisions.

Be Decisive
There is an old saying that many leaders and managers are familiar with that goes ‘seek forgiveness rather than ask for permission.’ It’s vital to be decisive in your role as manager. Make a decision, look for the best outcome and if it works out great. Make sure you are able to explain why it worked out so it can be replicated.

If it doesn’t work out, dust yourself down and get on with the job because that’s your responsibility.

Commit to your decisions
So ownership is by far the biggest requirement leaders are looking for from their managers, but decisiveness is also a crucial factor. Another key element leaders look for is commitment. This simply means following through on decisions and ensuring that others in the team do the same until company objectives are met.

If managers take ownership of their area, and are prepared to make clear decisions and fully commit to them, then leaders can focus more of their time on doing what they do best – leading the business.

So the message for managers is clear: take ownership, make decisions and fully commit to them.

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What if I as a manager make a decision and it turns out to be the wrong one?
If the decision goes wrong for the manager, it might cause problems and tempers may get frayed because of it. However, you are actually delivering on what you were hired to do. You were hired to take responsibility for a particular area of the business, to make it work as best you could.

If you don’t take ownership or you can’t make decisions then you are not managing.

You might get into hot water from time to time but when things cool down, the smart business owner will realise that you took ownership and you were decisive and you fully committed to your decision. They can see you are doing your best as a manager. That shows you take responsibility for your actions and that is something they can respect.

What they cannot respect is a lack of responsibility or ownership of decisions and outcomes.

So managers should be prepared to make decisions rather than asking the business owner for permission all the time. The outcomes may reveal that the role was beyond you and your capabilities but it won’t be because of a lack of commitment or indecision on your part.


Interview by Des Kirby

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Do I Need To Do a Management Development Programme

Do I need to do a management development programme__blog

“Do I need to do a management development programme?” It doesn’t sound like a particularly difficult question but for some managers admitting they are struggling in their role is tantamount to admitting failure, or that their admission will be perceived as a sign of weakness. In reality it is neither. Mike Gaffney explains why looking for help in the form of a management development programme is a clear sign of strength not weakness. Keeping it simple, what’s needed is an open and honest discussion between the manager and the boss.

Try to clearly state what the actual need is regarding your current situation. It could be as simple and as frustrating as:

Look I don’t feel confident in my management role. I used to work with these people 6 months ago. Now I’m their supervisor but they still see me as a colleague. I’m finding it hard to delegate and there’s one particular member of the group who won’t accept that I am now his manager. How can I sort this out?”

Very few senior managers or employers would respond negatively to such a request, because first of all the individual is showing huge commitment to the company but also to changing themselves in order to improve their performance. If you have somebody of that mind-set, they are valuable and you want to keep them and tap into more of their potential. They have had the courage to come to you and put their case to you. From the boss’s perspective, this is someone who wants to develop and contribute more so they should be willing to make that happen. The return on investment in getting managers performing to a high standard is very substantial.

do i need to do a management development programmeBy having that conversation with your boss, you invite open and honest discussion and get their perspective which helps to lock them into a commitment. It is not a sign of weakness to go to your boss and admit that you are struggling in the role and that you need help. On the contrary it is a sign of strength. When you make yourself vulnerable and challenge yourself you will often find the world responds by saying “fair play, you are giving it your best shot.” You might assume that people see it as weakness when really the world sees it as courageous. We don’t like being vulnerable because it’s an uncertain feeling and we don’t like uncertainty, but others often see it differently; they see it as a sign of strength.

With the economy improving we are finding more and more employers asking the question, “how do we retain our best people?” Well, one way is to provide them with all the support they need. So managers should ask for the support that will make a difference to you and your organisation.

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4 Ways to Increase Leadership Effectiveness

4 ways to increase leadership effectiveness


We work mainly with business owners and managers in the SME sector and what we find in general is that they have a clear idea of what they want to achieve with their business, but what they don’t have are good methodologies in terms of implementing their vision for the business. One of the programmes we deliver is the futureSME and the management team programme. These programmes try to help business owners and senior management teams to deliver true leadership in the organisation. Any discussion about leadership effectiveness can be quite difficult to pin down. It’s about behaviour which is very hard to measure and values that can be difficult to articulate. At LEAP we have our own template that we go through with business owners. Here are 4 ways to increase leadership effectiveness.

1. Clarify the vision
The first thing we look at is the vision. We clarify what the leader’s vision for the company is by asking the question, ‘where do the leaders see the company going in the next two to three years?’ It’s about articulating that vision and finding a way to communicate that vision to the rest of the organisation.

2. Decide the purpose of the organisation
Once the vision has been established and clarified, we look at the core purpose of the organisation; what does the organisation represent and what do they want to achieve? I use the example of Ryanair distilling their message or purpose down to just two words – no frills. We try to help organisations to simplify their message and what it is they represent, so people in the organisation are clear about what behaviours and attitudes and standards are being set. That’s not just for the benefit of the staff but also to establish that sense of purpose for customers and suppliers as well.

3. Establish goals
Once we establish that purpose we look at the three or four primary goals that the organisation wants to achieve. Then we find a mechanism to articulate those goals particularly through visual management systems. One of the visual tools we use are Gantt Charts featuring various lines of action, where we assign work to people, in other words who is going to do what and when. It’s essentially a visual monitoring system , like a traffic light system to show what’s working and what isn’t. Green means the action is on target, orange means the action has been delayed or is still in progress and red is for tasks that have missed their completion date.

4. Measure performance
Another thing we try to establish is what the correct key performance indicators (KPI) are in the business. KPIs show the activities of team members and the level of progress in different areas within the business. One of the things I find working with companies is that they either have no KPIs at all, or they are measuring some KPIs but they are the wrong ones. The KPIs they are measuring are driving the wrong behaviours and activities within the organisation. That can greatly hinder a company’s performance and needs to be corrected as a matter of urgency. 

So it’s very important that everything is aligned from the leader’s vision to the purpose of the company through to the goals, lines of action and KPIs. You can talk about leadership styles and the different types of leaders, but if you follow this clear methodology you can’t go far wrong.


leadership, leadership ireland, executive coach John Raftery is Senior Partner and Executive Coach at LEAP. To learn about our leadership and management programmes click the button below.

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Content Manager: Des Kirby

Congratulations to NUIG Managing People group

LEAP would like to say many congratulations to the NUIG staff who recently completed LEAP’s Management Development Programme. Upon completion of the programme participants received their Level 6 QQI Component Certificate in Managing People. We wish all of you continued success in your careers.

Pictured: NUIG staff with their QQI Level 6 Certificate in Managing People
Front Row: Nuala McGuinn, Tricia Cunningham (LEAP programme facilitator), Orla O’Donovan, Sylvia McDonagh
Back Row: Ronan Kennedy, Kevin Hynes


QQI level 6 component certificate in managing people

Every team member needs to ensure that they maximize their contribution to the company. Companies require a fully engaged team to deliver consistently high levels of performance. To support team members in raising their game LEAP’s programmes, built around core people performance areas, will enable individuals to increase their contribution by applying proven practical approaches with immediate impact on the organisation.


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5 Ways To Make Management Team Meetings More Effective

5 Ways To Make Management Team Meetings More EffectiveImage Source

When the New Year began many of us committed to being more organised and structured at work. We made great efforts to tidy our desks and eliminate the clutter we’d magically accumulated. We committed to using our calendars more effectively and to prioritising tasks and actions. This is all good and indeed necessary. Now it’s time to expand our focus and consider additional actions to assist us in becoming more effective and efficient.

The big complaint many have is the amount of time spent at meetings. Ask anyone about the greatest time wasters and invariably attending meetings will be mentioned. People get frustrated when they consider the time spent at meetings versus the results achieved. Too often they consider meetings exhaustive, repetitive and worst of all a waste of time! When you add up the cost of each person attending the meeting and the length of time of the meeting, what is the cost to your organisation? Can you say this is good value for money? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Take Action

To address this issue begin by looking at the meetings you have control over. Work to make these meetings as efficient and productive as possible. Consider the following:

1. Define the need for the meeting
Every meeting should have a clear purpose which is evident to all. Simply having the meeting because you’ve always had it is not good enough. Define the outcomes the meeting needs to achieve e.g. measure progress on the project versus what was planned and identify next steps.

2. Determine who should participate in the meeting
Everybody’s time is precious. Don’t include someone unless you can clearly articulate the reason why they should attend and the input you expect from the person.

3. Develop an agenda and distribute it to all involved with sufficient time for them to prepare for the meeting
An agenda needs to have structure. It is not a list of bullet points. An agenda should include a directive e.g. Agree the response to senior management on the new process for resolving customer issues. An agenda should also have the items prioritised and times assigned to each so attendees also know they key issues that will receive the greatest focus.

4. Anticipate how you will facilitate the meeting
The facilitator’s job to keep the meeting on track and ensure the issues identified are addressed. The key skill required is communication: the skill of actively listening, challenging contributions, drawing in reserved people and limiting others who are dominating. In advance consider how you will manage these different challenges and anticipate your responses to the dominant person or indeed the reserved individual.

5. Following your meeting evaluate effectiveness
Review the agenda and determine progress made in terms of achieving what you had identified. Ask others about the meeting: how was it helpful and how could it be improved? Be prepared to stop meetings if they are no longer required.

Of course when it comes to meetings in which you participate you need to consider how you can influence the facilitator to take on board your recommendations for managing the meeting more effectively. Also, query your participation on meetings. Be disciplined and consider your value to the organisation: would you be more valuable to your organisation by attending the meeting or focusing on other deliverables? Of course, when opting out of meetings you need to consider how you communicate that to the facilitator. Again, communication skills are critical.

Tricia CunninghamTricia Cunningham is the co-founder and senior partner at LEAP.





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