Leadership Skills

Leadership Lessons to Learn from the New Republican Congress

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If you're looking for partisan bashing (or support) of the Republican congressional members, you’ll be disappointed as this is a nonpolitical piece.

The newly elected Republican Congress has a challenge that many business leaders face: figuring out how to work together with others in order to achieve desired goals.

It seems to me that the Republican leadership will have multiple components of this test to pass -- learning to work with the president and the executive branch, figuring out how to collaborate with Democratic colleagues and cooperating with their Republican compatriots who may have different perspectives. 

The world of politics provides a great example of the need for identified and agreed-upon organizational goals in order for leaders to effectively lead. 

Frequently political leaders do not have a shared vision. Thus, not much progress seems to be made because there is no agreed upon direction. 

In business, leaders are usually working toward the same goals (hopefully) of providing valuable goods and services at a profit but that's not always the case.

Yet, if you can lead only those who are like you (who view situations the way you do or with similar motivations), then you're significantly limited in what you can accomplish.

So how do you work together effectively with those who are different than you? 

Related: 4 Strategies for Reducing Workplace Conflict

Achieving goals with a diversified team.

Successful managers value differences. They understand that in order to achieve significant accomplishments, a variety of skills, viewpoints, personality styles and motivations can come into play.

While leading teams of diverse individuals is probably more challenging than helming a homogenous group, the results can be significantly greater as a result of the combined skill sets.

But if a one-size-fits-all approach is adopted, the road will be rocky. This is true when considering how to communicate with the various players, what motivates them and the type of supervisory style they respond to best.

The implication? You need to know your individual team members and their unique characteristics.

For example, not everyone is motivated in the same way. Some people are inspired by potential financial gain.  Others value recognition and praise. Some team members do not want public attention but appreciate a personal note or comment. 

Unfortunately, many leaders fall into the trap of thinking everyone likes X (or should) because they do. This approach can lead to annoyance when team members don’t seem appreciate what these leaders have done. And it leads to frustration among colleagues when supervisors keep doing things that don’t hit the mark for them and they continue to feel unvalued.

Congressional leaders might be wise to realize as well: The political colleagues they are trying to work with have different motivations and desired results. Understanding a person’s true goals (rather than their stated intentions) is critical for successful negotiating and collaboration.

While a power-play approach (threatening consequences) can work to get one’s way in the short term, this style of leadership has significant negative repercussions for long-term working relationships, including resentment and revenge. Unfortunately, many developing leaders resort to heavy-handed tactics when they are unsuccessful or frustrated about not being able to lead their team. And it doesn’t go well. 

Related: Conflict Among Team Members Can Lead to Better Results

Here are some lessons to apply in your workplace:

1. Make sure you agree to clear, common goals. This is the starting point for success. A lack of shared vision and direction makes all other effort fruitless.

2. Understand, accept and rely on the fact that each team member is unique. If you try to treat everyone the same way and expect each person to think and be motivated in the same ways you are, then you will struggle to work together well and achieve the potential you have as a team.

3. Get to know the people you work with. Understand how they think and approach problems, what motivates them and how they feel supported and encouraged. Getting to know your colleagues takes time and effort. But the results are well worth the investment. Spend time interacting with them, listening to them and explore the wealth of tools available to become acquainted at a deeper level.

Related: The Art of Having a Productive Argument