Some leaders are likened to being made out of Teflon (the non-stick surface of frying pans) – no matter which problems they face, nothing sticks to them. While this “slippery shoulders” management approach might help some people climb the corporate ladder, I much prefer the opposite type of character:
“Sticky” leaders wade in and get their hands dirty whenever they feel that it is needed. These leaders do not do this because they want to meddle in the running of the business, they would simply rather handle the “nasty stuff” before it gets to the team. The aim is to attract the problematic issues like a bright light to a mosquito, and while everyone is slapping on the repellent, the “sticky” leader will strip off the layers and let them come for him or her.
(They will, of course, splat the mosquitos like anyone else, but better they suffer than someone else)
This isn’t to say that the “sticky” leader doesn’t understand that the team have to learn to be “sticky” leaders too. They will involve their teams in the struggles as much as it is necessary for them to learn, but not so much as to take them away from their main goal of developing their own teams and driving the business forward. The “sticky” leader is there to take the flak, they stand up in the storm and stands firm for their teams.
People look up to their leader and adore him or her.
The self-sacrifice of a leader is common in our global cultural understanding – from the deep message of Christianity (amongst other religions) to the banal example of a football manager falling on their sword, the people that we follow are often the first to stand up and take the heat when things get difficult. These people are “sticky” leaders through personal choice – they could choose to avoid the issues that constantly fly their way, but instead they handle them head on.
The “Teflon” leaders, on the other hand, let all the difficulties filter down to their team. They may call this effective delegation, but actually they see it as the best way of retaining their job. They are insecure, unreliable and often incompetent. The one positive impact of the “Teflon” leader is that the people who work for them are the “sticky” leaders of the future. They don’t have any choice but to deal with whatever comes their way.
“Sticky” leaders don’t seek credit, and they don’t want to bask in the personal glory. Much of their work will be done behind the scenes, and the less that their employees find out about their “sticky” exploits, the better. You could liken the working day of a sticky leader to the image of a duck swimming through the water – above the water, all is serene, but below the water they are paddling frantically, putting up with all sorts of weed and underwater obstacles.
People still know, though, they understand if their leader is the “sticky” type. They will follow them till the end.