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Why Do Great Leaders Customise Their Management Style?

Life's experiences

 A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.” M.D. Arnold

There are many fascinating places in the world to study and observe human nature and one of these places is the corporate world. Have you ever had a manager whom you admired? What was their characteristics that made you admire them? On the opposite end, have you ever had a manager who was less than ideal? What about them that made them so?

As a NeuroLeadership Engineer, I help leaders understand the science behind how the human brain respond to it’s environment. The truth is that our brains are swimming in neurochemicals and these chemicals have a huge impact on our thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Every leader needs to understand this for them to be in tune with themselves and also be able to lead others from within them rather than from above them. This is what leadership influence is about, connecting and leading from within people by touching their hearts and souls. So, when you are a leader, one of the important skills you have to develop is to customise your management style to your team members as they are different.

Psychologists revealed from different studies that how we act or function as adults is a reflection of our early childhood experiences. We humans need safety because safety means survival. As soon as we are born, our instincts kick in and we quickly accumulate information to know how to acquire the attention of our primary caregiver. The higher our success rate at this, the higher our survival rate. In a corporate environment, line managers take on a role of a dynamic caregiver as they look after the team members wellbeing. To achieve this, a leader needs to understand the Attachment Theory and the Four Styles in it. This can help the leader understand how to connect with each member. Let’s look at these Four Styles of Attachment Theory.

  1. Secure Attachment Style

A person displaying this attachment style believes that generally, relationships are positive and helpful. This person is quite comfortable with emotions and trusting.

Most likely, this person’s parents/caregivers were responsive, emotionally attuned to them and provided them a safe feeling and environment.

  1. Insecure Avoidant Attachment Style

This person withdraws and shuts down emotions as the self-protection mechanism because it hurts. They become stoic – meaning that they can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining. They have difficulty with intimacy and understanding this as a leader helps you realize and accept why certain people keep to themselves a lot.

Most likely, this person’s parents/caregivers were critical, blaming and shaming which led to this person developing this attachment style.

  1. Insecure Anxious Attachment Style

This person is insecure and anxious. They are not so sure whether or not the leader is reliable in providing safety and protection. This person is hypersensitive to affirmation and validation. As a leader, you need to understand and go an extra mile at work to provide them the emotional reassurance whenever you can.

Most likely, this person’s parents/caregivers were unpredictable, unreliable and unavailable.

  1. Insecure Disorganized Attachment Style

In high moments of distress, this person will become chaotic, shutdown or paralysed because as humans, it’s Flight, Fight or Freeze. This person doesn’t just choose this, it automatically kicks in, it’s a reflection of their complex childhood.

Most likely, this person’s parents/caregivers were frightening, chaotic and disorganized.

I am certain you’ll agree with me that our upbringing has a huge impact in how we respond to the world.  To add to this, as a manager, you have your own attachment style that is most likely to clash with that of your team members, do you know what your attachment style is? We all have our past that have shaped who we are and as a leader it’s important to understand that to connect with people, you need to know and accept that we all have our own unique attachment style. Great leaders have passion for human nature, they take time to study and understand people and this helps them gain insights on different attachments styles that drive human behaviour which helps them customise and adapt their management style accordingly.

So, to be a great leader, it’s important to understand that leadership is not a thing, it’s not a position nor a possession that a person holds, but it’s an activity and privilege that enables a person to connect, influence and help individual team members unleash their power to become better people and advance organizational goals.

Now that you know something about the science and the mechanics of the Attachment Theory, you can start right away on a new path of improving your leadership journey and mastering the art of connections. For more, let me take your leadership team through the ‘Veli Ndaba Neuro Engineering Leadership Effect’ #VNNLE and help you create a Peak Performance Culture in your organization.

Veli Ndaba is a NeuroEngineering Leadership Effect Speaker and Trainer, Brain Coach and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!) and Newspaper Columnist. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773