In our exploration of the characteristics of anabolic and catabolic leaders, so far we’ve determined that anabolic leaders “lead” and “participate,” while catabolic leaders “manage” and “delegate.”
Let’s look at another aspect of leadership—how information is conveyed to others—to deepen and expand our understanding of the key differences between these two types of leaders and the respective impact on their people, endeavors and organizations.
In any type of leadership role—whether as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or as a parent—imparting information to others is an integral and essential component of leading. Catabolic leaders give information sparingly, while anabolic leaders share information collaboratively.
“Giving” means to convey, transmit, assign or allot. When we give to others, we don’t retain ownership of what we give. “Sharing,” on the other hand, means to partake of, use or experience with others. When we share, we’re still part of the process—we’re “in it” with the other person. It’s similar to the difference between catabolic delegating and anabolic participating.
When catabolic leaders give information to others, they do so without much explanation and with little or no focus on obtaining buy-in. In contrast, anabolic leaders share content and context and check for complete understanding. Not only does this approach help ensure that the outcome matches the underlying intentions of the initiative, it increases creativity and commitment by supporting buy-in, building trust, developing rapport and strengthening connection.
Which of the following leaders is more likely to get the result they desire?
“John, I need a rundown of the responsibilities for the people in your department. Get it to me by tomorrow afternoon, if not sooner.”
“John, we’re considering bringing in some additional staff members to ease some of the production crunch you and your department have been experiencing. I’d like a rundown of the responsibilities of your people so that I can see who’s doing what and where some gaps might be. I’d like to get your team relief as soon as possible. Is it realistic for you to get me the information by tomorrow afternoon or maybe even sooner? After I take a look at the data, I’d like to hear your ideas on what’s needed so I can incorporate them into the solution. How does that sound?”
Though the two leaders asked for the same information, the difference in how the anabolic leader asked will produce a superior solution.
John’s response to the catabolic leader would probably be to question what was going on, worry about his department and his team and to either put off doing the task or do it in a perfunctory way.
On the other hand, John’s response to the anabolic leader would most likely be to jump right into the task, do it well and generate ideas for improvement. No energy wasted in the “catabolic canoe” with thoughts of “Why does our boss want to know who’s doing what? Is he considering layoffs?” that would just serve to pointlessly undermine the team’s morale and drain their enthusiasm. Instead, team’s entire energy can be focused confidently and creatively on producing an optimal outcome for all.
Anabolic leaders get substantive, sustainable, superior results. Try sharing information collaboratively instead of giving information sparingly both at work and at home. Those extra few minutes of explanation to gain buy-in can make all the difference.
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