Police encounters are dreaded ! Even more dreadful are the encounters between parents and kids at the dinner table ! Police encounters are about physical warfare while encounters with kids are all about psychological warfare.
How many times do we see fathers helpless in convincing their kids to eat food or to study for exams. No matter how rational or appeasing or strict a parent is, it just doesnt work. So who comes to your rescue when nothing works. It is the grandparent ofcourse, grandmom in particular! The way a grandparent convinces a kid is a textbook example of leadership!
Leadership and grandparents, are they even related? What makes a grandparent such an effective communicator? It is nothing but the ability to blend with kids as one of them. Thats the key, you can reason with them only if you are one of them. This is what we call soft leadership, driven by influence and respect .
The traditional leadership in organisations is the hard leadership that is similar to the relationship between a parent and a kid. Ofcourse, there have been improvements where parents are casual with their kids but what we would like to emphasize is leadership based on authority just doesnt work. You want to be a magnet rather than a hammer !
For ages, managers have used power to lead. While relationships have changed dramatically over the past few years, there is still a subtle usage of authority to manage teams . However unlike a kid who probably listens to his or her parent because he has nowhere to go, a subordinate can always leave, which is a loss for the company.
Moreover, the “grandmom” style of soft leadership is extremely powerful and can be used in many contexts. As salesman convincing a customer, a HR manager convincing an employee to stay or even your son’s friend convincing your son to study well. When you have influence on a person you automatically wield authority, however the converse isnt true.
So how does one practice soft leadership. The trick is to assume you dont have any formal authority on your subordinate (though you do have it) and empathize with them and try to understand what would it take to convince your team to agree with you. Product Managers, Architects and many other individual contributors use influence to work with teams (without direct authority ) and deliver what is expected. One of the key attributes of soft leadership is emotional intelligence, the ability to empathize with your subordinates and act as a mentor rather than a supervisor. Once you achieve this you dont need authority because you have influence.