Without rules, it's nearly impossible to navigate the variety of situations we face day to day. Imagine commuting to work or running errands if there were no rules of the road. Or how would children know how to behave at home, school, the park—basically anywhere—without having rules and limits?
Indeed, researchers have found that children growing up in overly permissive homes often exhibit lasting negative characteristics, including weak decision-making ability, lack of impulse control, and an outsized ego and sense of entitlement. Children from authoritarian homes, where what parents value above all else is obedience, also often exhibit problematic behaviors such as callousness and lower social competence.
So what leads to the better outcomes? Parents with an authoritative approach, which combines warmth, sensitivity and setting limits. This approach leads to superior outcomes for children—across the globe, according to Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., who wrote "The authoritative parenting style: An evidenced based guide," published by Parenting Science, see https://bit.ly/3Dgkwa5.
You might wonder what this has to do with business, but consider your leadership style and company culture. To probe this, there are so many questions a leader can ask. Do your employees and partners know what your expectations are? How do you convey your principles and rules to them? How do you enforce them? Is there a disconnect between your rules and actual behavior? How does someone know what constitutes a hard and fast rule and what's more of a rule of thumb? What's the word on the street about what you and your company are all about?
Getting the answers to some of these questions is much like finding out what merchants' pain points are. It requires listening well, not just on occasion but day to day; not assuming you have all the answers; and coming up with what you believe are the best ways to convey your expectations, and then being willing to change course as needed.
It's easy to envision a company with leadership that is overly permissive running amok and failing. It's also easy to picture resentful people counting the minutes until quitting time in an authoritarian workplace. What does authoritative leadership look like? Here's one professional's vision:
"Authoritative leaders, also called visionary leaders, tend to approach leadership like a mentor guiding a mentee," wrote Tim Stobierski for Harvard Business School Online, see bit.ly/3cZWHsd. "Instead of telling their team to follow instructions and do as they say, authoritative leaders put themselves in the scenario and utilize a 'come with me' approach. They have a firm understanding of the challenges to overcome and the goals to reach, and have a clear vision for achieving success."
Our styles and aims are as distinct and divergent as our personalities. Some of us may have slight authoritarian or permissive leanings and still be successful leaders. But if we want our teams to truly thrive in their roles, the authoritative route looks like a good way to go.
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