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Red Light, Green Light Leadership: Do You Play a Winning Game or a Losing Game?

Effective leadership not only sets the pace, momentum, and direction for the team but also embodies the essence of guiding a team through progress and pause, much like the childhood game of "Red Light, Green Light". There are moments when a person experiences swift movement forward, capturing the thrill of dashing towards victory, while at other times, a person's momentum may be abruptly halted. Reflecting on the exhilarating rushes and sudden stops of Red Light, Green Light games from our childhood, I see a clear parallel in the way the best leaders create opportunities for forward progression. This blog delves into the realm of leadership behaviors, drawing inspiration from the classic childhood game to ask: Are you a "Green Light" leader who plays a game that creates winners, or are you a "Red Light" leader who plays a game to hold people back?

Positive behaviors, which I'll reference as "Green Lights", as a leader, act as an influencer for progress, creating an environment where trust, collaboration, and motivation flourish, thereby propelling team members forward and closer to their goals. In contrast, negative leadership behaviors, which I'll reference as "Red Lights", act as inhibitors, by fostering distrust, reducing morale, and encouraging resistance to change, thereby hindering progress forward. The dichotomy of "Red Light, Green Light" underscores the role the leader plays in creating success or failure, both of an individual and of a team.

"Green Light" leadership behaviors inspire team members to move forward with enthusiasm, creating an environment that nurtures innovation, commitment, and the collective pursuit of goals. Such leaders build trust and foster open communication, enabling their teams to thrive on creativity and action. Their approach not only propels teams towards success but also cultivates a culture where calculated risks are embraced and forward momentum is celebrated. Additional "Green Light" behaviors include:

  • Team-Centric Focus: Establishes a collaborative atmosphere driven by mutual support.

  • Clear Objectives with Autonomy: Sets clear goals while giving the team the freedom to act.

  • Attitude over Resume: Prioritizes hiring for mindset and invests in developing skills.

  • Recognition of Success: Celebrates achievements, reinforcing positive behavior.

  • Growth-Oriented Delegation: Views delegation as an opportunity for team development.

Conversely, "Red Light" leadership behaviors often signal a retreat, leading to reduced productivity and a culture marred by anxiety and frustration. This leadership style undermines trust, discourages open communication, and stifles innovation, as team members become cautious and skeptical, wary of taking risks or making decisions, fearing they might lead to conflict or failure. Additional "Red Light" behaviors include:

  • Individual Achievement Focus: Prioritizes personal success over team collaboration.

  • Opaque Communication: Withholding information, creating an environment of mistrust.

  • Skill-Based Hiring: Overlooks the importance of attitude, affecting team harmony.

  • Emphasis on Faults: Focuses on mistakes, fostering a fear-based workplace culture.

  • Self-Serving Task Allocation: Uses delegation merely to lighten personal workload, neglecting team development.

"Red Light, Green Light" serves as more than just a childhood game; it's a metaphor for leadership that extends from playgrounds to professional settings, shaping environments, defining opportunities, and influencing emotions. The 'Green Light' leader stands out by opening up possibilities, building trust, and promoting teamwork and creativity. Whether in the playful chase of youth or the serious pursuits of our careers, the journey to the finish line is profoundly shaped by leaders who grasp the 'Green Light's' power to inspire, unify, and guide their teams toward triumph.

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