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The Best Leaders Are Both Tough and Nice

Lindsey Smith

Which style results in the more highly-engaged employees? According to a study of 160,576 employees under the command 30,661 bosses, the tough-versus-nice battle is tight. Eight percent of tough-led employees are highly engaged. Nice? Six percent. So tough-minded leaders are the winner, right? Not so fast. The most effective leaders, it turns out, use both styles, and 68% percent — that's right, 68% — of their employees are highly engaged. Personally, I want to be a "driver" and an "enhancer!"

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  • Lou Pizante

    In my experience it is important to be a driver when setting goals and expectations and an enhacer in executing against those. This all assumes that you have the right team of self-actualizers who take pride in their work (which is a condition precedent to effective leadership and successful teams). Organizational behavior research is replete with studies substantiating the thesis that individuals perform best when they are at the same time challenged and supported. It is also common sense. You cannot perform at a high level if you're unhappy or unchallenged.

  • This Bar Saves Lives

    Such an interesting article, Lindsey! It's all about balance. Love the quote by George Santayana. "Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it." Thanks for sharing!

  • Ben Goldhirsh

    this is so valuable, Lindsay. Thank you for posting it. I do think a lot of people move to ends of this spectrum, and it's cool to see the data speaking to the results when Driving and Enhancing can come together. I also think that this is not so much a half and half approach, but rather integrating "driving" into the "enhancing" behavior and vice versa.

    • Sean Johnson

      Couldn't agree more. Like a lot of things, it's all about finding that balance and weaving the two together. Great stuff Lindsay!

      (by the way, Ben - our other conversation was coming up as a 404 today so I couldn't respond, but thanks for getting back to me. If it's easiest for you, feel free to shoot me an email -, and we can go from there. Really looking forward to talking more.)

      • Alessandra Rizzotti

        Hey Sean! Great to see you offering insight. Just so you know, you may have been marked as spam in our system, which is why that 404 happened. This happens when many posts are posted from the same site in a short amount of time. Let me know if this still happens for you, as I unmarked you as spam!

        • Sean Johnson

          Gotcha, no worries. Was just excited to dive in. Thanks for the help Alessandra!

          • Alessandra Rizzotti

            No prob! We're excited you are diving in. Keep it up! I think the more diverse your posts are the better!