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'Friction creates warmth' - how leadership styles influence workplace culture

At a recent leadership event that I attended, one of the panel members talked about his predecessor who embraced a management philosophy based on the premise that 'friction creates warmth' i.e. he adopted a divide and rule mentality.  He went on to say that, as a result, he inherited a demotivated team producing poor results and with very little respect for each other or the people who worked for them.  It took over a year to redress this situation, was costly and time consuming but did ultimately change the workplace culture to one based on mutual respect, a common vision and a genuine enthusiasm for the task in hand i.e. to run a successful business. Of course productivity and profitability also increased as a result.

The initial reaction from the audience to the 'friction creates warmth' leadership story was laughter and I suspect was met with disbelief and derision at a leader with such an outdated way of managing teams, (even though it occurred within the last few years).  Surely, no self-respecting boss in 2013 would lead their team in this way and expect to get great results!

However, it made me wonder whether some business leaders inadvertently create this culture within their organisations.  For example, if the same management team has been in place for a number of years but the demands placed on that organisation have increased in line with economic and competitve conditions, is there a danger that the capability of the the senior management no longer meets the requirements of the business?  In which case, there's a real potential for individuals to feel insecure in their roles, be wary of others and potentially hide areas of weakness or poor performance.  Aligned to this, if the CEO or MD is preoccupied managing external relationships, he or she may not be aware of some of the hidden dangers in this scenario until the damage has been done.

One of the key ways of avoiding unintentional friction amongst teams is to have cost-effective systems in place to measure, track and improve management performance and wellbeing. These include tools such as anonymous 360 feedback, psychometric assessments to determine individual leadership styles, regular performance reviews and targeted leadership development programmes.  In addition; having external coaches and mentors, who offer leadership teams the opportunity to air any concerns in confidence as well as developing their own potential, can be a very valuable tool for ensuring you lead and are part of a continuously aligned and high performing team.

If your business is lacking the ability to track and support leadership performance and wellbeing on an ongoing basis, and you'd like more information on how to implement cost-effective systems, coaching and mentoring contact Fiona on 07818 077560 or at

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