Transforming Leadership: Taming Inconsistent Management Behaviors

Succession planning identified a director as a potential successor for a vice president role. As a result, human resources arranged for psychological testing with an Industrial Psychologist. The psychologist relayed the results indicating this individual would be equally adept at being either a priest or a military officer without elaborating what this meant in terms of performance. The director thought it quite admirable to have such a range, and took this to mean that he had a wide career scope with many options.

This story captures merely one of many reasons for inconsistent management behavior. From a tendency perspective, this wide spectrum is extreme and includes opposing behaviors. The range could be quite useful if you are very self-aware, but problematic if you remain oblivious while others observe incongruity in your decision making and working relationship dynamics.

Self-management wise, this range generates a busy internal debate between two opposites. The emotional and mental debate zigzags between:

* Be impulsive or be disciplined? * Approach this creatively or systematically? * Be flexible or zero tolerance? * Be self-serving or go for the greater good?

Every skill and trait is both an asset and a liability. The power is in knowing when it shifts from the asset zone into the liability zone.

There is an upside and downside to having such a wide range of perspectives. The upside is that you may be in a complex situation where you can quickly assess what needs done – either instinctively or through the sharp eyes of a strategist. The biggest downside is confusing reports and peers with your changeable behavior. It is baffling to others when your behavior fluctuates at any given point, such as: * One day you’re rigid in your requests, the next day you’re flexible; * One time you’re pleasantly personal, the next time you act totally impersonal; * One moment you’re forgiving, a few minutes later you’re all about compliance; * One week something is insignificant, next week it is a big deal; * One meeting you are aligned with peers, the next you are odds with them.

As a leader, you run the risk of alienating the very people you depend upon to get the job done. Employees need to be convinced you know where you are going. Employees receiving inconsistent direction from their leader begin to question themselves and their abilities.

When you hear critical talent saying ‘I didn’t sign up for this!’ pay attention they are sending a strong signal you have a retention risk on your hands. It’s a common complaint from those recently hired or promoted into a key role. Their mandate is to change things quickly – speed of execution, and bring others along. They hit the ground running and do well at inspiring support from reports and peers yet get stopped by inconsistent management behavior.

You have a good reason for doing what you do. But if it is causing critical talent to doubt why they are working with you, you have a retention risk on your hands. Any learned behavior can be unlearned – in other words most tendencies can be tamed.

What you do to tame a tendency is unique to you. What works for someone else may not work for you. Is it worth the time and effort? Definitely! And here are three solid reasons why: 1. Giving up the inner debate will save you eons of energy. 2. Inspiring employees instead of alienating them brings out their strengths. 3. Talent retention is crucial for the health of your business.

Judi Walsh is an executive coach to critical talent and management teams. Her discovery driven coaching accelerates development for leaders who want or must lead in new ways. For more of Judi’s ideas on Transforming Leadership visit


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