3 Ways to Be an Effective, Velvet-Hammer Leader

When it comes to leadership and management style there are two categories most people fall into. Those are sledgehammer or velvet hammer leaders. 

If you’re reading this post, you are likely a high-performing professional who takes pride in your work, and you’re extremely attentive to your own personal and professional development. 

You are the type of woman who wants to climb the ladder and be a part of a team that works together to achieve greatness. 

I’m also going to bet that many of you have likely had a boss at some point in your career who has pushed you beyond what you thought you were capable of — and the outcome was either one of two things. 

1) You felt that you were likely smarter than the boss and could do a much better job of leading the team and getting the job done. OR 

2) You felt your boss was the most awesome, compassionate, and highly intelligent (both emotional and academic) person in the room and you looked forward to the next interaction. 

The first boss is what we call a sledgehammer leader. The second was a velvet hammer leader — and that’s the goal to shoot for in your professional development. An effective leadership style uses a velvet hammer approach to bring out the best in a team. 

These experiences definitely set the tone for how we end up leading our own teams and businesses. If you missed out on having a velvet hammer leadership example, that’s okay. I’m going to give you three practical tips to develop this effective management style. 

THE VELVET HAMMER LEADER VS. THE SLEDGEHAMMER LEADER

How many of you consider yourself to be a sledgehammer or a velvet hammer leader when it comes to your leadership style? 

Let me break this down for you. 

The sledgehammer leader tells it how it is, regardless of their audience. I’m talking about no filter – what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of style. The sledgehammer doesn’t consider what other people might be thinking or feeling, nor does this person care to hear another perspective. It’s more of a my-way-or-the-highway approach.

(Haven’t we all had a boss like that in our past lives?) 

The velvet hammer leader takes into consideration the audience and actively listens to them. They think about how people may perceive a message. They ask themselves questions like: How would this person feel if I said things a certain way? What would that audience think if I approached things a certain way? The velvet hammer leader puts themselves into the mindset of their audience. 

3 TIPS TO BE AN EFFECTIVE VELVET HAMMER LEADER 

As the leader of your business or organization, you have three primary functions:

  1. Listen to others

Even if you decide to stick with your original message or plan, if you sincerely listened and genuinely took into consideration a possible alternative, that’s what matters. People want to be heard. 

  1. Develop a high level of self-awareness

This is critical to your success. Your team is relying on you to understand where they’re coming from and to know their strengths and weaknesses. They want you to lean on them and solicit their input. They want to please and give you great results. But, the only way you’ll really achieve this is to have a thorough understanding of your own tendencies and leadership style. 

  1. Communicate with empathy

The most beloved leaders are those who communicate with clarity and take into consideration how a message will be perceived. I love how Brene Brown writes in Dare to Lead, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” 

The fact of the matter is, when you’re not clear about your expectations or requirements, you’re not leading with integrity and ultimately will not garner the results you desire. Remember, being clear doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk. 

Your team takes its cues from the leader. If you come across like a sledgehammer — they will too over time. If that happens, don’t ever expect to build community and camaraderie as a sledgehammer. It’ll never happen. 

The velvet hammer, on the other hand, tends to win people over, tends to build community better, and tends to retain excellent staff and clients too. 

Take this opportunity to review what leadership style you have been using and make adjustments where needed to listen, be self-aware, and communicate with empathy as a velvet hammer leader. 

About the author

Heather Lisle is a professional problem-solver, business coach, and entrepreneur with 20 plus years of experience helping business owners and leaders identify their biggest pain points and develop a fast track for growth and success.

Get to know her at @heatherlisleco on FB and IG and at http://www.heatherlisle.com


One reply on “3 Ways to Be an Effective, Velvet-Hammer Leader

  • Corrie

    Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind — that’s such a great reminder about the importance of clarity and laying out straightforward expectations. It’s not only more effective for your organization, it really is the kindest way.

Comments are closed.