I’m human. I can do it too. Why can’t you? Ladies and gentleman: That’s the motto of Pacesetting Leadership.
What is it?
Pacesetting Leaders are leaders who roll up their sleeves and get to work with the rest of the workforce. They lead by example, expecting performance not only from their employees, but themselves. They usually set high expectations, and then prove that those expectations are reasonable by accomplishing it themselves. Work is usually fast-paced and demanding. Weaker members of the team are identified and weeded out if they can’t keep up with the tide of demands.
These leaders try to avoid handing out work they can’t do themselves. In certain cases, the temptation exists to step in and do the work for the worker as a way of making a point.
The Plus Side
Pacesetting Leadership is great for short term projects. Pacesetting speeds up the work process by setting high expectations and pushing employees into overdrive mode. Sometimes the nature of a workplace is to have a series of alternating breaks and urgent projects. If this is the case, this leadership style will squeeze out the most from the given time while allowing employees to relax later.
If workers have the same purpose and motivation as the leader, Pacesetting is a decent way of running the workplace. This is because both leader and follower are operating on the same level; thus it is easier for followers to follow in the leaders footsteps.
The Not-so-plus side
Get ready for burnouts. Pacesetting is plain tiring. Workers have to operate under extreme pressure from an expectant leader that is always making them feel inadequate. For this reason, pacesetting is unsuitable for consistent long term projects. After a brief duration of intense work, employees either start searching for a new job or just slack off. Morale suffers.
In other cases, a disconnect between leader and follower occurs. The Pacesetting Leader may not convey the necessary skills to meet expectations. Learning in a high-pressure workplace can be counterproductive as workers get confused with information bombarding them from all sides. This then turns into a vicious cycle, where the Pacesetting Leader demands more from their workers, which pressures them making it harder to learn; thus they underperform and the Pacesetting Leader demands more from them. It goes on and on.
The Pacesetting Leader has to also face down the temptation of intervening and doing the job by themselves. When employees cannot meet expectations, these leaders often throw them aside and finish up the work; this is true with regards to urgent deadlines. By doing so, they may not actually be leading by example as this is contingent upon the worker understanding how the leader performs the job. Rather, this habit might develop into a workplace norm where the leader feels they are the martyr that keeps everything running with their own effort.
Be careful. While setting good examples can inspire action out of your workers, resist the desire to practice Pacesetting Leadership in its totality. Recognizing that a high-pressure workplace may not be productive, it might be better to slacken the pace every now and then.