The type of leader that builds exceptional talent

Tuesday 21 April 2020
Are you a 'teacher'? A 'cheerleader'? A 'connector'? Or an 'always on' manager?

In Jaime Roca and Sari Wilde’s Management Book of the Year 2020 longlisted book, their research led them to categorise leaders by four clearly defined leadership styles. They go on to say that the most effective type of manager is the Connector Manager – in this lightly edited extract, they explain the differences between the styles and why the Connectors are able to build such powerful and talented teams.

Just as you have a go-to breakfast or a well-worn favourite pair of shoes, you also have a predominant management style that you lean on in your daily approach to employee development. Think about these types as the comfortable coaching habits that managers fall into. We’ve categorised them as:

  • A teacher manager develops employees through personal expertise and experience, provides advice-orientated feedback, and directs employee development.
  • An always-on manager provides continuous, frequent coaching, drives employees' development, and gives feedback across a breadth of skills.
  • A cheerleader takes a hands-off approach to development, gives empowering positive feedback, and enables employees to take development into their own hands.
  • A connector introduces employees to other people for coaching and development and creates a positive team environment while providing targeted feedback to employees.

Be a connector

In a management setting, Connector Managers drive performance by making three connections:

  • The Employee Connection – They diagnose employees’ unique development needs and personalise their approach to coaching and feedback.
  • The Team Connection – they connect employees with their peers for development by creating a team environment that recognises and encourages peer-to-peer coaching.
  • The Organisation Connection – they help employees learn from and connect with the right individuals and opportunities across and outside the organisation for coaching and development.

Each of these connections generates specific outcomes that ultimately link circumstance, capability, and readiness for development to individuals' roles and goals so they can perform to their fullest potential. Under a connector’s purview, an employees’ performance begins to grow exponentially. Compared to all other managers, connectors help employees improve their performance dramatically by helping not just in their current roles, but also in their future careers, while at the same time enhancing their engagement and retention.

The employee connection

This includes an assessment by the manager of the skills and needs of their team - and much more. Most managers are expected to provide frequent, fluid, “hands-on” coaching and feedback to employees in support of their performance. The employee connection involves all the individual interactions you have with your employees, from one-on-one coaching and providing direct feedback to sharing performance expectations. It represents the “bread and butter” of your job as a manager with the expectation that you will guide employees with a strong sense of conviction and judgement. Getting the one-to-one employee connection right is not just challenging, it’s crucial. If you don’t ace this step, it is almost impossible to succeed in the other two connections, making the employee connection both the most powerful and the most treacherous.

The team connection

This is not just about leveraging the obvious potential for skill sharing, it’s also about encouraging employees to share their development needs openly. To this end, Connectors support this aspect of the team connection in part by being transparent about their own inexperience or lack of know-how.

In the team connection, Connectors work to understand what inspires individuals and teams to create their own personalised approaches to management and ensure that everyone works toward common goals. Connectors encourage individuals within their teams to share their distinct opinions, backgrounds, and experiences, and use these differences to build team trust. They also make it easier for employees to develop their peers by institutionalising and ritualising the sharing of information, strengths, and needs across peers on the team.

The organisation connection

Connectors don't just pair up employees with other colleagues, peers, or mentors and hope for the best. Rather, they prepare employees to connect with others across and outside the organisation for coaching and development –and they revisit the value of the connection once it’s made. We call this concept the “give-get”. In essence, connectors help people become better learners when they make these new connections. This conclusion comes straight from our data.

Compared to all the other manager types, connections add more value by how they foster organisation connections. It's not that they have a greater network to tap into, but rather that they know how to leverage their connections to serve their employees’ needs more broadly.

You can find more exceptional books in our longlist for this year’s Management Book of the Year awards - start reading today!

Remember, members can access ManagementDirect for free. Why not try searching for “leadership style” to see what other resources we have available?

You can also find more Covid-19 related content on our Leading Through Uncertainty hub.