When you think of great leaders, what comes to mind? Qualities of a leader? Specific leaders? Let’s take a minute to focus on one quality that makes a great leader: They can think like each member of their team.
Teams that collaborate well often have a leader with the ability to identify with each individual’s mindset and sentiments, a multivocal leadership, as Brian Uzzi, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, calls it. Leaders don’t attempt to gain technical efficiency in multiple areas but identify with their team members’ experiences and are able to broker their individual skills into successful collaboration.
Here’s how you can tap into this skill for your teams and projects:
Understand the various cultures on the team. The best leaders don’t try to enforce their ideals onto the actions and decisions of the team. Instead, through empathy, relatable experiences and listening, they are able to speak the same language as the individual. Each team member then feels empowered to make decisions and drive the team towards their achievements. Team members also recognize that their leader has a genuine interest in their personal motivations. This fosters trust.
Know your limitations. Effective leaders know where they excel, where they are mediocre and where they are weak. They are able to defer to the expertise of team members in the areas where they are lacking. They also have a clear understanding of what each player brings to the table and can create order from a group of disparate professionals.
Frequently assess yourself. Psychology research shows that we have a tendency towards a “self-serving bias,” where positive achievements are the result of our actions and negative events are caused by external factors. This keeps a leader from understanding their weaknesses. Learn to be honest with yourself about your talents and your limitations. You may need to enlist help to get feedback from teams and management in order to do a thorough self-assessment. Regularly doing this will help strengthen your ability to be a multivocal leader.
Maximize your team’s success by developing multivocality: empathize and relate with individuals; bring together the group’s strengths; and build trust through self-awareness.