Friday, October 13, 2006

What's your leadership styled

Niagara Falls Review


KAREN MARTIN Your Business

We've all worked for bosses we've hated or whom we've considered incompetent. In fact, for many entrepreneurs work­ing for someone they neither liked nor respected is often a major factor in their decision to start their own businesses. And we certainly hope that as business owners or managers ourselves we are doing a better job than some of the people we worked for in the past.

A recent study by two American professors, Tiziana Casciaro from the Harvard Business School, and Miguel Sopusa Lobo, from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, has brought to light some new thinking about four main types of managers or bosses and their effectiveness in the work environment.

Casciaro and Lobo studied four organizations, for profit and non­profit, small and large, North Ameri­can and European and came up with four archetypes, which they classify as:

• The competent jerk - someone who knows a lot and is effective in his or her position, but is unpleasant to deal with;

• The lovable fool - someone who doesn't know much, but is wonder­ful to have around;

• The lovable star - someone who is smart, effective, and likeable;

• The incompetent jerk - those who are not only incompetent, but impossible to like or deal with.

Naturally, this study showed that no matter what type of working environment, everyone wanted to work with the lovable star, and of course, no one wanted to work with the incompetent jerk. However, study results were surprising when it came to employees' choices between competent jerks and lovable fools.

Expecting that most people would choose competence over likeability, Casciaro and Lobo were surprised that the likeability factor was much more important than competence. The researchers discovered what they described as the "gating factor" - if someone is strongly disliked, it is almost irrelevant whether he or she is competent. People simply won't want to work with the person.

On the other hand, when some­one is well liked, others will tend to seek out every bit of competence he or she has. As the authors of the study state: "A little extra likeability goes a longer way than a little extra competence."

This finding flies in the face of much traditional human resources thinking, wherein a high level of on-the-job competence is usually the primary requirement. Casciaro and Lobo suggest organizations promote familiarity and team building among their staff and use likeable staff members strategically, to bridge gaps between diverse groups in an organi­zation. They also suggest strategies for dealing with the competent jerk.

This study is important to small business owners for many reasons. I think it is useful for all business owners and managers and honestly examine their own leadership and management styles and see where they might fit into these archetypes. And when hiring others, it is impor­tant to remember that employees who are liked by their co-workers can be highly effective in the work­ing environment and should be placed strategically within your com­pany.

Casciaro and Lobo's full article can be found in Rotman, the magazine of the Rotman School of Manage­ment at the University of Toronto.

Karen Martin holds a Bachelor of Journal­ism degree and is an APEC Certified Busi­ness Counsellor. She teaches seminars and workshops on a variety of subjects, including business communications, mar­keting, sales, and business planning. You can contact Karen at


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