We interviewed Cheryl Alderman, Director/Business Coach & Mentor/Life Coach at Be Ultimate. Here are her expert insights on leadership styles and how over the years it has evolved.
What is the prominent leadership styles that you see today?
First of all, probably it’s worth just talking about change and leadership and the way we lead now in comparison to 10 years ago. Previously it was leading with power. Now we have done a shift in understanding that leading by influence is much more powerful than leading with power. The interesting fact is the change in leadership style is very much an influencer at every level. The way leaders and managers are communicating with their staff and how they should be looking at communicating with their team.
What would the communication strategy be with different departments and teams?
The delivery is very important, and understanding your team and how they receive information. So for example if you were dealing with an IT team, they are going to respond a lot better to written instruction or one on one instruction than they are to a larger group environment or plenty of talking. They don’t tend to process auditory information they process information differently. For example if you are in a marketing team or a creative team you would be looking at more visuals and interactions with your conversations and communications because they would respond more to that form of information delivery. So it is key to understand what type of team you are working with and what form of communication works best for them.
So that is the first thing, its the delivery, the way you are delivering the communication and that would also include, as a manager, your volume, how fast you are talking, whether you are standing up at the front or sitting around a meeting table and the like. That will play into how you are delivering.
To go back to the good old ‘Body Language’, the way you are holding yourself as you are delivering information is important. We know now that message delivery is verbal, majority of message delivery comes from other ways too, our stance, power, our tone, our body language is more involved in the type of delivery than the actual words we are using. And when it comes to being assertive as a leader it’s not just about what you are saying and how you are languaging it, it’s just as much about how you are actually doing that physically and with the use of facial expressions. As it is not what you are actually saying.
You can create a very strong perception of assertive confidence without actually saying a word.
What are the key differences you notice between the leadership styles of a woman and a man?
The main differences that I have noticed in terms of women and men leaders is communication. In terms of communication women leaders can be very apologetic in their leadership and men are quite direct and firm and will make statements. Women leaders will often have a question tone in their statements. They are not so assertive and obviously, look I’m generalising here. Women leaders are much less likely to step into their own power.They are not so great at acknowledging their own skills. Men on the other hand are quite happy to tell everyone how fabulous they are, just doing my job or that kind of languaging when their strengths are highlighted.
Women are not comfortable stepping into their own personal power. I find men are much more comfortable delivering and receiving feedback than women leaders tend to be. There is that more emotional level that women leaders are attached to in a business conversation and i’m not saying that its a bad thing because empathy is very powerful in leadership. But it can also inhibit their feeling of freedom to convey messages that might be construed as more negative so they won’t necessarily say what they needed to say because they are playing on making sure that it does not sound so harsh.
Women in a conversational setting (eg: Meetings) do not speak up as they question themselves.If they do speak up they feel challenged to go back and question whether they said the right thing rather than owning what they have put forth. Men are much better than chucking it on the table whether it’s right or wrong and standing with that. Women are much quicker to back away from confrontation.
Those are some of the things I’ve noticed, and obviously confidence, the level of confidence in themselves. Even at top level I’m working with a lot of senior executives in the private industry. Even at that top level there is still that feeling of self doubt and saying you know, ‘are you sure’ ‘are you sure’. At a communication level men are much better at ignoring that little voice than female leaders can be.
It is difficult to be confident in your leadership when the people around you are making you feel like you’re either a token gesture or ‘not to be taken seriously’. That can be a very difficult wall to surpass. I have found from the clients I work with that strength and confidence comes from within and if you can develop that and foster that it doesn’t matter what environment you are in you will know how to optimize what is available to you and you will know how to decide on your own terms what is best for you and your career.
Sometimes the strength that women leaders need is to know when the environment they are in, is not conducive to the growth and development that they need and sometimes you’ll build that awareness when you find that it is time to move on and its a lot easier for people to get trapped in the cycle of ‘not quite being enough’ then it is to step inside and notice that moment where you’re like, ‘I’m more than enough and in that environment I’m thriving’.
How did you end up starting Be Ultimate?
I was one of those children at school whose every single school report said ‘Cheryl talks too much’. I have a giggle now because, now I actually get paid to talk. So the irony is that, I actually grew up in NZ. I came here to Sydney on a holiday when I was 19 and never went back. Love Sydney. I started off in Finance, so I started off in payroll and accounting and assistant accountant and so on. I moved up to IT management in service management and racked up a bit of a combination of change management, project management, Risk management, Operational management, and really just the whole lot.
Being a senior manager in an IT firm that time was very unusual for me. Thankfully a lot more common now that things are changing. So I worked in the IT world for many years and now I took 10 years off to have three children in 4 years because I’m completely crazy.
Went back into the corporate world after that and it just was not resonating anymore, I was spending an awful lot of time teaching managers how to manage and decided that perhaps that was actually my forte, working with leaders and shaping them to be leaders without them coming off as dominating and power driven alienating their team.Teaching them how to be effective leaders, and influencers and to make sure that their team will follow them and perform for them because they want to and not because they have to. So I had actually done some psychology and sociology at uni and I have also got a business degree as well. I went and did some coaching training with the coaching institute in Melbourne and basically brought all my skill together.
Now I help leaders get into the areas that they don’t necessarily grasp naturally and educate them around the different profiling skills and styles that are available. I teach them to get their own type of leadership because everybody’s leadership style is different and we don’t all want to be Alphas, it’s great to be an alpha leader but there is plenty of outstanding leaders that communicate quietly in a very different way and are just as powerful and just as strong.
Cheryl Alderman works with managers, executives, corporate teams and businesses combining face to face coaching with team workshops and training, designed to empower, motivate and maximise communication skills, creativity, performance, and results. She is the Senior Executive Business Coach, CEO and Communication and Leadership Specialist at Be Ultimate.
Don’t Miss Cheryl Alderman at the Public Sector Women in Leadership Conference, 19th and 20th November, 2018, Canberra.