Extraordinary Team Blog

Achievement-Oriented Leadership: The Best Managers Are Not Competitive

Posted by Joseph Sherren on May 23, 2014

Many of us have worked for a bad boss at some time in our career — the micro-manager, the yeller, the softy and especially the boss who takes credit for everyone’s work.

There are some managers who are so concerned with looking better than others that they view leadership as a contest. They actually compete against their staff instead of working with them.

They do this by always needing to be right, getting in the last word and forcing their ideas, regardless of their soundness — all in an effort to maintain a sense of superiority. To them you are either a winner or a loser.

These managers view each encounter as a contest they need to win. They mistakenly believe that this will motivate their employees to try harder or at least imitate their behaviours and become more proficient.

Not only do these aggressive leaders compete against their employees, they also believe the best way to get maximum effort is to encourage staff to compete against each other. They are always holding some sort of contest, constantly comparing employees to each other and rewarding people based on beating someone else.

My research shows that the best managers focus more on getting staff to work together and make people feel their personal efforts are valued. They create a culture where people are inspired to set goals, take calculated risks and have control over their work. Establishing such an environment is probably the most important success-related activity a manager can do.

Often, internal contests destroy collaboration, teamwork and co-operation. It sets up people to be winners or losers, and people will remember how they were treated by their peers during the contest and may try to “pay them back”. In today’s environment, even in departments where people work independently and on different projects, co-operation is critically important. Contests damage relationships.

As a manager, you need to open up lines of communications-both ways. You should share with your people what’s happening in the organization. Staff need to know how well things are, or are not, and what the expectations are. Too often, leaders keep this information “close to their vest”.

Great managers listen to employees- — not only about work-related matters, but also about their personal hopes and concerns. One of the best questions a manager can ask is: “What would you change if you were in charge?” This will not only garner important information about the organization, but also establish a trusting, give-and-take relationship within the group.

It is important to provide positive reinforcement for behaviours that could result in task accomplishment, even if they don’t. Activities such as setting goals, taking moderate risks, thinking “outside the box”, suggesting positive changes, and planning ahead are indicative of an achievement culture.

While it is critical to reward effort, it is even more important to celebrate goal attainment. An organization’s long-term viability is contingent on individual successes — big or small. Doing this sends a message of their importance. Recognition can range from simply a “pizza lunch” to an awards dinner.

A fundamental truth here is: Everyone who starts with an organization truly wants to contribute and has dreams about making a difference. Good leaders know this and help people nurture and grow this desire.

Finally, promote only managers who have a high achievement thinking style and are moderately competitive. By using advanced assessment tools, a constructive attitude can be determined prior to making any promotion.

My question for managers this week: Is your attitude and behaviours creating a competitive or an achievement-oriented culture in your organization?