What sort of leader am I?
We all have our own ideas about what makes a good leader, and even whether we are a good leader. Sometimes we find new information that enlightens us and enhances our perspective on leadership. Sometimes the real value of new input is simply in helping us to start asking the right questions. As leaders, people often use a style based on what they know and what they have experienced. Ask yourself this question:
Is the leadership style that I am using right now getting the results that I want as a leader?
If not, it’s time to change something. If it is, it’s time to look to the future to see what behavioural flexibility you may need as the context in which you operate evolves. Its's time to consider your own leadership development.
Do any of the following remind you of how you see your leadership style?
Transformational leader (Burns 1978)
“I have a vision of how things can be improved and my vision inspires people to follow me. They willingly accept the direction and the pace that I set. With a song in their heart and the figurative gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s all systems go.”
Question: How do you ensure that your vision is an ecological and ethical one for you, for your followers, for the planet? What happens when you are not there?
Transactional leader (Burns 1978)
“My leadership is based on the notion of exchange. If you achieve the objectives required, I will give you benefits such as a pay-rise, promotion, and so on. Fair’s fair. My team members’ real commitment to objectives is an unknown quantity, but it’s not a problem.”
Question: What will you do if you run out of bargaining chips like pay-rises, bonuses, etc.? Are your people developing and growing so they can show initiative and take leadership roles when the going gets tough?
Authoritative leader (Kurt Lewin 1939)
“I tell, they do. I’m leading in a time of crisis for my organisation, where action needs to be taken fast to save the day. Right now is not the time for coaching my team or participative decision-making if we all want to survive. Right now is Winston Churchill time.”
Question: Churchill was voted out when peace returned. What happens when your war ends?
Laissez-faire leader (Kurt Lewin 1939)
“People need to work things out for themselves. The real strength in my organisation will come from people who have had the practical experience of solving their own problems and who can stand on their own two feet. Let me know if you have questions.”
Question: What if their solutions have nothing to do with the objectives of the organisation? OR worse still, are damaging? Who keeps them to account?
Democratic leader (Kurt Lewin 1939)
“I get my team involved. They feel that all activities of the team directly concern them. Communication happens in all directions and everybody is ready to help colleagues and learn at the same time. We are a happy family as well as a team.”
Question: Sure – are you also able to get the right results from your team and get those results in the timeframe that your organisation needs? What happens to the team when you need to push the “power” button?
Great Man or Woman leader (Edwin Locke 1991)
“I look like a leader, I talk like a leader, I act like a leader. People respect me and pay attention when I discuss objectives with them. My drive, energy and commitment to results is understood and admired and spurs my people onto great things when we work together.”
Question: What really goes on in-between times when you’re not there? Will things keep going when you leave or retire? What succession strategy is in place?
Situational leader (Hersey and Blanchard 2008)
“I have a different leadership style according to the people that I’m leading. My followers are carefully categorised in terms of competence/ commitment/confidence/willingness. I then adopt a style of directing/coaching/supporting/delegating as appropriate”.
Question: Do your people ever get to really connect with you and who you are? Have you ever made assumptions about the groups maturity that may not be true? How are you fostering relationships in the group?
Level 5 leader - Good to Great (Jim Collins 2008)
“All that counts for me is the performance, growth and success of the business. I would willingly forego many of the so-called privileges of leadership development if my sacrifice could allow my company to look better and be more prosperous”.
Question: How do you ensure that everybody is growing with the company as it continues to grow too? How do you sustain and maintain that momentum over time? How are your personal energy levels?
Relational leader (Margaret Wheatley 1992)
“Leadership is inherently a relational, communal process. Leadership is always dependent on the context, but the context is established by the relationships we value. The time I formerly spent on detailed planning and analysis I now use to look at the structures that might facilitate relationships. I have come to expect that something useful occurs if I link up people, units, or tasks, even though I cannot determine precise outcomes”
Question: Are you working on the right relationships and are those relationships fostering or hindering the tangible deliverables of the business?
If you’d like to know more about any of the examples above or if you have ever asked yourself or your team any of the questions here, then call Alison Jardie on 0400 340 171 to discuss how leadership development and executive coaching have helped many leaders develop their style and resolve these very issues.
References cited above:
- Burns, J 1978, Leadership, Harper and Row Publishers Inc., New York.
- Collins, J 2008. Available from: < http://www.jimcollins.com/> [27 Feb 2009]
- Hersey P, Blanchard K & Johnson D 2008, Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources, 9th edn, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
- Lewin K, Lippitt R & White R 1939, Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created social climates, Journal of Social Psychology: 271–301.
- Locke, E.A. & 7 others 1991, The essence of leadership, Lexington- Macmillan, New York.
Wheatley, M 1992, Leadership and the New Science, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco