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I recently investigated dozens of leaders for their styles, looking at their distinct definitions, and gaining insights from their habits. Actually “dozens” is polite – my research located more than 50 formally named styles from as many books, magazine articles and website searches. From courses on them, to consulting companies building their reputations around them, to numerous authors making handsome livings writing about them – leadership is a topic people have strong opinions about.
Bottom line: Leadership is not a “one size fits all” way of being. More likely, especially these days, you must adapt your style to fit a situation or a specific group. It is equally important to remain flexible. This is why it’s useful to gain a thorough understanding of other leadership styles. After all, the more approaches with which you are familiar, the more tools you will have to effectively lead.
There is a time and place for any, each, and all of the leadership styles. (See list below.*) If you, as a leader, have one primary way you lead on almost all situations, consider the possibility that you need to update your leadership wardrobe to include a few other “styles.” In many cases, the leadership style you have assumed happened as a result of some habit you observed as a follower but not from an intentional design. Just as “dress codes” have evolved over time, including the accessories used to express those styles, so too for leadership styles. Change happens – roll with it.
How do you know what style to implement? It can depend on the following criteria (in no specific order):
• the individual personality of the person or persons following, and the rules, laws or authority of the leader in the situation,
• the leader’s own current frame of mind and that of the person or persons following,
• the leader’s goals or objectives and the importance of time regarding any action the leader wants taken, and
• the power/influence between the leader and those following plus the type of commitment required to produce the desired goal.
In addition, investigate what has designed your leadership style (consciously or unconsciously) to date. Might it include the type of follower you have been? Ask yourself the following questions:
• Who are your leadership role models?
• What do they represent that you admire?
• What does that tell others about you as a leader?
Good Luck on your leadership journey. Just remember what Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
*Some leadership styles to consider: adaptive, authentic, authoritative, autocratic, bureaucratic, charismatic, coaching, command/control and obey, consultative, creative, democratic/participative, dictator, directive, emotionally intelligent, executive, innovative, laissez-faire, level 5, mindful, missionary, narcissistic, no-excuse, pace-setting, people-oriented/relations-oriented, resonant, servant, situational, storytelling, strengths based, task-oriented, transformational, transactional, tribal and visionary.
Rhea Blanken, FASAE, runs Results Technology, Bethesda, Md. She is a speaker, strategic scenario facilitator, and creative problem solver, creating learning experiences that transform organizations and individuals for over 30 years. Visit her Project Runway Leadership session at the ASAE annual meeting on Aug. 13. Contact her at 301-320-8711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.