Unlocking Leadership Balance: The Cheerleader vs. Taskmaster Dilemma

Not long ago, during a session with a client who recently became a manager, they brought up a big question about handling a team member. They were torn between two approaches, encouraging their team members’ strengths or telling them, “Do it my way because that’s how it works.”

I noticed they were struggling with conflicting roles, between being a cheerleader and a strict taskmaster. They leaned towards being a taskmaster, even though it contradicted their training. They felt more drawn to being a taskmaster, but it didn’t align with their values.

Not believing in that approach was their difficulty.

The idea of being a cheerleader didn’t sit well either, as it seemed superficial and insincere. This inner conflict is expected when you’re in a period of personal growth and change.

At one point, my client mentioned they’d asked their team member to think more broadly about their work because they tended to overthink and make mistakes.

I tried a playful exercise to help them break free from their mental struggle. I suggested they climb onto a table or chair, but they hesitated and declined. Even bringing a stool seemed unappealing to them. They were resisting experiencing the moment physically.

My client’s dilemma, torn between being a cheerleader and a taskmaster, showed they were aware of the opposing forces in their situation. However, they were struggling to find a middle ground.

I often remind myself that even struggles have their purpose. As Alana Fairchild, a spiritual artist and author, says: “Sometimes the choice isn’t just one or the other; it’s the idea that it can be both.

Beyond choosing between being a taskmaster or a cheerleader, my client can embrace a more expanded leadership style. This new approach doesn’t sacrifice substance when dealing with their team. It’s not just about choosing one side or the other; it’s about finding a third way.

This third way involves becoming a coach-leader who can meet their team members where they are, have impactful conversations, and foster team growth without resorting to an empty cheerleader persona.