Three Leadership Strategies

Nate Silver, the celebrated statistics maven, is above all a brilliant pattern-noticer. As his site has evolved into an organization with employees he is managing, he’s broken down the code for leadership into three strategies.

You have three fundamental strategies you can use as a manager, right?

Let’s say you think there is something you think wrong – that you would do differently.

Strategy one is, you can ignore it or capitulate and say, “It’s not worth picking this fight.”

Strategy number two is that you can veto something, right? Be a dictator and say, “You know what, we don’t have time, this article sucks, we’re not going to publish it.”

And strategy number three is you can persuade someone. You can say, “You know what, I want to explain to you why I think this is not the right approach, and because you’re a super-smart person (that’s why I hired you) you might persuade me otherwise, too.”

So, it would sound as though persuasion is always best, except it takes a really f#&@ing long time, right? So figuring out the ratio of strategy one, two, and three is kind of the part that I think you learn with experience.

Interview from Employee of the Month with Catie Lazarus.

I see the same three strategies at work in choral conductors. And I think we all have a particular strategy we lean on most heavily. I have sung under conductors who lead through Strategy 2 (“You’re wrong… Stop making stupid mistakes … Are you dumb? …”) and have known those who prefer Strategy 1 (“I program almost all music from Genre X because it’s what my students respond to…”).

I am personally a persuader: Strategy 3. I spend a lot of time on meta-cognition about what we’re singing and why we’re doing what we’re doing. While it works for me, I am also mindful that it isn’t always the most efficient or effective strategy. So I have tried to find the ratio that Silver describes for a while. I’m happy to have his terminology to go with my own searching.

What is your preferred leadership strategy? Have you found the perfect ratio of all three for peak effectiveness? How could you incorporate more of the strategy that feels most foreign?