Being a parent is probably the hardest job any of us will ever take on. No matter how many books we read or how many workshops we attend, our children defy all books and workshops; we have to learn how to parent them; to understand their personality types; their unique needs and wants.
Becoming a leader is probably the second hardest job in the world.
As owners or managers; supervisors or team leaders, we will have good days and bad days. We will have days when no matter what happens around us we are able to remain calm and logical and decisive. And then we will have days where everything that can possibly go wrong, does. The alarm clock doesn’t go off. We get stuck in horrendous traffic. We run out of petrol on the way to work. We get caught in a torrential downpour on the way from the car park to the office. Whatever. We are only human. If we’ve had a start to our day along those lines, we probably won’t be calm and logical and decisive. We will be short tempered; irrational and indecisive. We are only human.
However, no matter the type of day we are having, I’ve noticed over my years in HR that there are some basic leadership styles that lie underneath whatever is going on for us; a good day or a bad day may be temporary, but our personalities and styles are pretty fixed.
The most well known leadership styles are as follows:
- Autocratic: the get-things-done boss. These people on their bad day could resort to the ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ style of decision making. Even on a normal day if results don’t come fast enough they will not be happy and people around them will be left in no doubt that they are not happy.
- Democratic: leaders who involve their people, ask for their ideas include them in decision making. Though they too are only human. They too could resort to becoming autocratic if they feel that things are becoming too cruisy.
- Laissez faire: leaders who tend to sit back or even hide in their office appearing to take little or no interest in what is happening with their people. If they are having a bad day they will probably put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ notice and be even more unavailable.
My belief has always been that on a normal, rational day, a leader needs to know how to combine all three – a ‘Know-when-to-hold-‘em and know-when-to-fold- ‘em’ style. In other words, know when to step in and take charge (autocratic); know when to step back and let people get on with things (laissez faire) and know when involvement and inclusion are required (democratic).
None of us is one dimensional, there are other styles that are woven into the fabric of who a leader is and how and where they will perform best:
- The charismatic leader: someone who has an abundance of charm and personality. This is a person who naturally attracts people with their sheer passion and personality. This could be a Democratic leader with personality, and even an autocratic leader with a touch of pizzaz
- The visionary leader: someone who has a clear picture in mind of what the future looks like and can paint that picture so others will be inspired by it and join them on the journey
- The strategic leader: a person with the skills required in a start up or new team. Someone who has the big picture clearly in mind and will take a new team or group along with him/her confidently during the early stages of a business
- The transitional leader: required when a business has sudden growth or takes over another business. A person who has a steady hand and doesn’t panic easily. A person who has the long game in mind
- The situational/facilitative leader: someone who can co-ordinate the people, processes and skills required at a particular time in the life cycle of a business. Someone who can bring those different factions together and help them find a way through to consensus and a desired outcome
- The operational leader: someone who can literally step in; become hands on if need be to get things happening; get things moving. They can clearly see the challenges and can implement systems to smooth out operational road blocks
Most of us are a mix of many of them.
These leadership styles are all what I would define as ‘above the line’ leadership styles. They are genuine; they are authentic; the style may not be perfect but there is no ill intent involved. Each ‘style’ may be a challenge for an organisation in that they have recruited the wrong style for a given scenario; however what is NOT in question here are the ‘ethics’ of each style.
Which leadership ‘type’ feels like you; which resonates with you? If you are not 100% happy with your leadership style, or if perhaps you realise you are not getting the results you were employed to achieve, can you change?
I believe that about 80% – 90% of who we are is pretty much set in stone at birth. If I’m a quiet introvert; I will never be a life and soul of the party person. If I’m a get-things-done person, I will have to be seriously disciplined not to take over from people if I don’t think they are moving fast enough.
However, knowing our strengths and weaknesses goes a long way to changing what we can about our personality or recruiting the people around us that offer the balance.
- What type of leader do you aspire to be?
- Who do you hold up as your role model?
Malala Yousafzan, the young Muslim girl shot by the Taliban for going to school said ‘One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world’. And so it is with a leader; leaders can literally change the world around them for better or for worse.
Consider some of the ‘greats’:
- Ghandi had a vision to peacefully rid India of Western powers – a movement that became known as Enlighted Anarchy
- Lincoln was determined to end slavery in America
- Mandela was determined to end apartheid
- Kennedy set a goal of a man on the moon by the end of the 1980’s when no-one had the technology to do so
- Martin Luther King Jr wanted to end racial prejudice
- Mother Theresa founded a nunnery dedicated to helping the poor and the sick in India
Did they all have the same leadership style? Absolutely not. Did each of them have good days and bad days? Of course they did. Were they logical and rational one day and grumpy another? Probably.
But to a man and woman, they had their long term goals so that even on a really bad day, they would look beyond personal challenges and moods to stay on track with their vision. Was their vision achieved easily and without effort? Absolutely not. Did they take one step forward and numerous steps back? Of course they did. Their strategies were probably designed on the run. Did they make mistakes? Undoubtedly. But their goal or vision was such that no road block was ever going to stop them.
Some people choose leadership while others came by their leadership role totally by default.
‘Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.’