This is something you seldom read about. Rather, the general assumption seems to be the opposite—consistency, transparency, integrity (deduced from predictable behavior), open-book and open-heart management, etc.
But the more predictable you are for your people, the more likely they are to fall into complacency. They’ve got you figured out. To keep them in the learning mode, to enhance their level of engagement with you and their work, it may be useful to “keep changing your style of doing things.”
The less predictable you are, the more attentive people have to be to figure out what you mean by what you say.
Subordinates should never be opponents, of course. Peers may be. In either case, you are well advised to understand that they are almost always up to something other than the obvious. If they force you to play games, the least you can do is to keep your play in doubt until the time comes. And then the less expected your play, the less likely they are to be able to con you.
It is a nice fantasy that relationships would be better and organizations would function more smoothly if everyone was always candid, open. But that’s only a fantasy. It has never been that way, and never will.
If subordinates revealed what they sometimes thought privately about their bosses, they would in most cases be shooting themselves in the foot, in most cases jeopardizing their own careers.
People sort of want to know what other people think of them but only if it is positive. If it isn’t, it must be wrong.
In short, if you telegraph your punches, the other person has the advantage over you. Leaders need to preclude that possibility.
If a person knows what he wants the boss to say, then he knows what to say to get that response. If he isn’t sure how to predict his response, then that’s a game he cannot play. Performance trumps mere conversation every time. The leader has to decide what needs to be accomplished, who is involved, and what the other circumstances are. So he has to keep changing his style of doing things simply because the realities of the situation call for that level of adaptation.
It isn’t about who the leader is. It’s about what gets accomplished, and what is required of the leader to arrive at that accomplishment.
– Lee Thayer