SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: Do you prefer leading “staff” teams or “line” teams?

  • Staff — I like leading a function across the organization: 66.46%
  • Line — I like being directly involved in our front-line operations: 33.54%

Cross-functional leadership is exciting. The overwhelming majority of you clearly prefer leading a “staff” team versus a “line” team. These results are somewhat surprising. If “the line” is where the business executes, it would seem that people would gravitate toward leading those teams. One could argue the cross-functional roles give leaders a broader perspective and greater ability to drive impact across the company, but it’s hard to argue the excitement and importance of leading a line team as well. So why do you prefer a staff or a line leadership role? Share your thoughts in this poll’s comments, as this is definitely an interesting line of inquiry. (read more…)

I love the strengths-based leadership approach. It challenges us to know what our natural gifts are and build on them. But if we’re not careful it can make us blind to our opportunities to improve.

I recently worked with a vice president who was an up-and-comer in her firm’s global division. She was the “go-to” person on technical issues relating to Asian markets, and she was intentionally developing her leadership style to incorporate coach, mentor and develop others in the company to work effectively with foreign partners.

This was her primary career strategy until a situation that threatened to leave her at the VP level. It turns out that while focusing on the technical aspects of global operations and developing employees to manage them well, she had failed to develop some of her bosses. Her “managing up” skills were weak at the executive level, and she was uncomfortable with the delicate education and persuasion necessary to bring along some of her superiors. (read more…)

One of the hardest things for emerging leaders to learn is how to let go.

Entrepreneurs are notorious for falling into the do it yourself (DIY) habit. That may be good for home-repair people but not for business people. And especially not rising executives.

Well-focused leaders stay on track, in part because that’s their job, but also because their energy comes from managing the team. (read more…)

Sweet 16?

When I was 16, I told my father I wanted to be a vegetarian.

“That’s great!” he said. He jumped up from the couch, went to his file cabinet, and pulled out old magazine articles and copies of nutrition guidelines. You see, my father was a vegetarian. The articles he gave me discussed how to balance amino acids and other nutrients. I studied those articles and got started, and I was a strict practicing vegetarian.

For three days.

So, you can imagine my reaction when, decades later, our 16-year-old daughter came to my wife and I and said, “Hey guys, I want to be a vegetarian!”

I explained to her that India was the cradle of excellent vegetarian cooking and that the very word came from an Indian word meaning “lousy hunter.” (Well, that’s what Andy Rooney said!)

Despite my fatherly wisdom (or perhaps because of it?) our daughter went on with her plan. (read more…)

Employee recognition used to be solely handled by the manager or by executives. This top-down approach had its flaws but worked well enough to survive in the traditional workplace where employees and managers met, mingled and interacted on a daily basis.

But in a world where many employees work remotely, employee recognition and incentives must adapt. At Endeavor America Loan Services, we let employees become the leaders in an employee-recognition system that is democratic, inclusive and engaging. We’ve have seen that effort pay off with a highly productive workforce with low turnover and high morale.

From the start of our company, which is headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif., but employs remote team members across the nation, we recognized that employees are the best evaluators of performance. So we put incentives and rewards in their hands to increase engagement, collaboration and teamwork. In the past, democratizing employee recognition would have required a significant time investment and ongoing administrative manpower. (read more…)