Type the word ‘leadership’ into Google and you’ll be bombarded by a wide spectrum of how-to guides, each purporting to extoll the winning formula for people management. Some sing the praises of leading from the front, while others endorse a more autocratic style. Some encourage collaboration, where others favour delegation. But can leadership really be defined so succinctly?
After all, if we look back through history, the luminaries who have led countries, enterprises and armies to greatness haven’t exactly been cut from the same cloth. Some have ruled with fear, others with empathy, but all have achieved enormous success in spite of numerous documented shortcomings.
Some might argue that great leaders are born rather than made, each inherently imbued with a powerful and magnetic charisma able to inspire and coerce others into action. This may or may not be true, but that’s another story for another day. What certainly can’t be argued is the fact that leaders are far more influential when playing to their own personal strengths than they are when attempting to ascribe to a textbook-mandated form of management.
In many cases, leaders emerge as a result of their circumstances, with certain individuals better qualified to take on different audiences and scenarios. If we look at Nelson Mandela for instance, who turned a country on the precipice of civil war into a thriving democracy – he was the right person for the job at that time, his considered, empathic approach what was needed in a period of extreme crisis. Had he opted for a more Roman-style form of leadership, the world might look very different today.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to lead a team or indeed a nation. Every unique style of leadership can result in enormous success, while each is equally prone to cataclysmic failure. So how do ensure you make the most of your natural leadership skills?
Here’s a look at three typical leadership profiles and what you can do to improve them:
You’re a leader with an impeccable work ethic, and expect those beneath you to approach business with a similar fastidiousness. You command respect by setting an example, inspiring your team members with your commitment, passion and dedication to the task at hand. You prefer not to micro-manage your team, expecting them instead to take a leaf out of your book, but become disheartened easily when results aren’t on par with your lofty expectations. So while your approach can be highly effective in motivating those with similar levels of passion and skill, it can also alienate those requiring a little bit of extra guidance.
Leadership Tip: Stick with what you’re doing – leading by example is never a bad thing. But don’t ignore those in need of help. As a leader, your job is to guide everyone in your team to be their best, so whilst it might seem tedious, it’s important that you take the time to answer questions and offer support to those less technically brilliant than you. It might set back your productivity a little in the short term, but the long-term pay off will be enormous.
You lead by committee, preferring to achieve buy-in from all stakeholders in your team before taking decisive action. Whilst you might have great foresight and vision, you feel that any progress made should be collaborative, calling on regular input from those under you to build on ideas and inspire buy-in across your ranks. This is a great way to keep fresh ideas flowing within your team, and to inspire ownership across the board. But it can fall apart when crises strike, bringing about delays and indecision when authoritative decision-making is what’s needed.
Leadership Tip: There’s nothing wrong with collaboration – in fact, this type of leader is likely to inspire high levels of engagement and creativity. But excessive diplomacy can undermine your authority in the long-run, so it’s important to be decisive from time to time – after all, you are in charge. It’s great that you trust your team, but you need them to trust you too, so don’t put everything up for discussion if you want to garner real respect.
You like to take a bird’s eye view of your team’s activities, focusing on managing resources rather than on actual execution. You enjoy bringing out the strengths in your team, priding yourself on your strategic ability to get the most out of people by positioning them correctly. And whilst this calculated approach to leadership can be effective, and frees up your time to focus on people management, it can also lead to dissatisfaction amongst those who perceive you to be fobbing off your responsibilities.
Leadership Tip: People management is something that takes a lot of time, and it’s an area often overlooked by leaders who prefer to focus on getting the job done. As such, delegating work as a means to enable more comprehensive guidance isn’t a bad strategy, but it can backfire if your team members start to suspect you’re simply talking the talk rather than walking it. So whilst it’s certainly a bad idea to juggle an enormous workload as well as your leadership duties, it’s also important that you pitch in here and there so as to show good faith and to give your employees a great example to follow.