Drivers: Capitalizing on Strengths, Shoring Up Weak Spots

We all tend to fit one of seven types of change leader, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. The fifth change leader type is the Driver, who’s strong in both Head and Hands.

In the classic business book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. list eight principles of excellent, innovative companies. The first is “A bias for action, for getting on with it.” Drivers have that nailed!

But a key challenge for Drivers is to, as John Kotter puts it in his book The Heart of Change, “increase the sense of urgency” in others. Kotter writes that leaders need to “raise a feeling of urgency so that people start telling each other ‘we must do something’ about the problems and opportunities.” Kotter recommends “reducing the complacency, fear, and anger that prevent change from starting.” To do so, Drivers must consider the emotions of others. Particularly for technically oriented Drivers, it can be useful to remember to see emotions—both your own and others’—as data. To collect this data, Drivers benefit from “managing by walking around,” soliciting information about what people are thinking and feeling. Such data often proves invaluable in leading change.

It’s been said that the longest journey a person must take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart, and that can be particularly true for Drivers. In Beyond the Wall of Resistance, Rick Maurer lists “failing to appreciate the power of fear” as one of the top mistakes leaders make that results in resistance to change. He goes on to say that “when fears are triggered, humans’ ability to take in information goes down. In other words, people can’t hear what we’re talking about even if they try.” When Drivers don’t balance their forceful style and sense of urgency with people smarts, they can scare people into ineffectiveness.

Because of their natural bias for fast, effective action, many Drivers see involving people and listening to their fears as an impediment, a slowing down. And yet, when they can overcome this reluctance, they discover that better ideas emerge and that people work hard in support of the leader and the change.

I explore more what this means and go through some workplace examples in Change Intelligence.

Next up, we’ll introduce the Facilitator.

Drivers, Part I

We all tend to fit one of seven types of change leader, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. The fifth change leader type is the Driver, who’s strong in both Head and Hands.

Change leaders who are Drivers are all about results—they hunger to achieve the objectives of the change initiative. They are focused on both the short-term and long-term aspects of the change, and they will do whatever it takes to complete the immediate task and move toward the ultimate goal. They pitch in, share their expertise, and work long and hard toward objectives. But while they focus on the strategic and tactical business issues, Drivers may not give sufficient attention to the people aspects of the change process. They may be so focused on the work that they fail to raise important questions about the impact of the change on organizational culture, team dynamics, or individual people.

More than any other style, the Driver wants results. If you’re a Driver, you value and place a high degree of time and attention on getting the job done, simultaneously focusing on the strategic change goal as well as on the tactical plans necessary to accomplish objectives along the way. You excel at being forceful, pragmatic, and analytical.

It will come as no surprise to most Drivers that they don’t always pay sufficient attention to the people side of change. You will significantly increase your ability to lead lasting, meaningful, truly impactful change by engaging more with a wide variety of stakeholders, crafting messages that connect with affected groups, and attempting to understand and alleviate people’s concerns during the change process. Incorporating more genuine warmth and interest in others will help you emerge not just as a strong leader but as a caring mentor as well.

As a driver, your style of leadership is effective because you usually:

  • Have a keen grasp of strategy and execution
  • Know where you want to go and how you need to get there, and are able to focus on both the what and the how of change
  • Are tireless in pursuit of goals
  • Balance dealing with current state while putting systems and processes in place to move the organization toward the future
  • Are not afraid to face brutal facts and confront harsh realities

However, your acute focus on strategy and execution means you often overlook the people involved. Some of your leadership faults result because you sometimes:

  • May not give sufficient attention to the cultural components of change
  • May not appear to focus adequately on people’s individual needs or on team dynamics
  • Complain about lack of progress toward goals and the less-than-optimal efforts of others
  • Do not give sufficient attention to the process by which goals are reached
  • Can seem less interested in obtaining buy-in from others, incorporating their opinions into solutions and strategies, or engaging in two-way dialogue with them.

Although you’re sometimes seen as a stubborn and overly direct poor listener, others also admire you for being pragmatic, focused, and confident. When you have a full understanding of these facets of your leadership style, you can go about maximizing the good and minimizing the weak spots.

Champions: Capitalizing on Strengths, Shoring Up Weak Spots

We all tend to fit one of seven types of change leader, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. The fourth change leader type is the Champion, who leads with a combined strength in Head and Heart.

Much of the change management literature highlights the importance of change champions. Here we’re focusing more on a behavioral style than on the act of championing, but there’s no doubt that we need people who promote change and rally others around the initiative.

As Rosabeth Moss Kanter points out in her book Evolve!, “‘If you can dream it, you can do it’ is not necessarily true. ‘If you can dream it AND make others dream it, you can do it.’”  Champions know this instinctively; more than any other style of change leader, they have the capacity to provide compelling, persuasive cases for their lofty dreams.

But leadership author Jim Clemmer describes some of the problems we saw when Champions didn’t account for their blind spots: “Change Champions are vital learning leaders for an organization. We need their energy, ideas, and creativity today more than ever. But we have to learn how to coordinate their unbounded and disruptive zeal . . . For example . . . to understand the need for a delicate balance between change and stability.”

Even though Champions aren’t strongest with Hands skills, they can use their gifts to encourage practical action in others. In James Kouzes and Larry Posner’s The Leadership Challenge, one of the authors’ five leadership principles is “Enable Others to Act.” Champions do this naturally by fostering collaboration, creating a climate of trust, facilitating relationships, strengthening others, enhancing self-determination, and developing competence and confidence.

Champions excel at leading changes that are good for people and vital for the business. They get the big picture and enthusiastically jump at new challenges. Optimistic even in the face of setbacks, they exhibit unrelenting energy as they persuade others toward positive goals.

Champions, Part I

We all tend to fit one of seven types of change leader, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. The fourth change leader type is the Champion, who leads with a combined strength in Head and Heart.

Change leaders who are Champions excel at rallying people around a change goal. They value engaging with a wide variety of people and inspiring them toward exciting new possibilities. People see Champions as compelling, charismatic, and enlightening.

Some people refer to Champions as “participative visionaries” because of their emphasis on long-term goals combined with their ability to get others involved in developing and implementing those goals. If you are a Champion, you demonstrate considerable skill in rallying people in support of the new and the different. However, you may at times not give sufficient attention to the immediate task or the short-term objectives of a change project. Since you are more apt to promote the positive aspects of the change, you may not invite and pay sufficient attention to constructive criticism about the goals and the process.

Champions are verbally adept and persuasive, but some may see you as insincere or manipulative. Others may wonder whether your natural effusiveness is a cover for other intentions, and whether you are excited about the greater good or are really out for yourself. You must therefore be sensitive to how you come across so as not to appear calculating and insufficiently grounded; people may otherwise see you as disconnected from the reality of the current situation and out of sync with the specific tactics necessary to reaching a goal. Tempering enthusiasm and grand visions with detailed plans and objectives will enable you to influence those who are technically oriented or more focused on the business process.

As a Champion, your leadership style excels because you usually:

  • Take a lead role in change by combining your intuitive grasp of possibilities with your dynamic interpersonal style
  • Are adept at verbally communicating the vision, explaining how the change will affect individuals, teams, and the organization
  • Exude enthusiasm and optimism, even in the face of challenges and setbacks
  • Are confident in your ability to overcome resistance and motivate people toward a goal
  • Are socially skilled and relate easily to a wide variety of people

While your strengths shape an effective leader, they can also lend themselves to a few weaknesses. Champions can sometimes:

  • Undervalue the tactical activities necessary to accomplish a goal
  • Fail to address the requirements of others who have a greater need to know details and specifics
  • Downplay the importance of problems and risks in pursuit of a goal, being overly optimistic about the capacity of yourself and others
  • Come across as calculating, more interested in achieving your own goals rather than those of the organization or other individuals
  • Become overcommitted in too many new initiatives at once, and can get derailed from finishing one objective before becoming enamored with the next new thing

These bad habits mean that, with your Champion-style of leading, you are sometimes perceived as glib and manipulative rather than charismatic and enlightening. When you have a full understanding of these facets of your leadership style, you can go about maximizing the good and minimizing the weak spots.