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What Type Of Leader Are You?

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In the post, Leader or not to Lead… Ability or Motivation, I asked if you thought leaders were born or made. At the very end of the post is this quote from Steven Covey, “Are leaders born or made? This is a false dichotomy-leaders are neither born nor made. Leaders choose to be leaders.”

When I’m not writing about leadership practices, I am in my studio working as an artist. Just about every artist has a style and that style becomes a common thread throughout their work. When you look at a painting, photograph, sculpture, literature, and even music, you can see or hear their unique approach or thread to their creative work. 

Years ago I developed a style that I liked and have been working in that style for quite some time. Over the years I have followed the careers of several artists whose work I enjoy.   But I noticed something, the more I studied their work the further away from my original work I got. I started to incorporate some of their styles into my work and I have not been satisfied with what I have been producing. Why, because my work didn’t look like theirs, and in doing so I compromised my style. 

I found myself being over-influenced by their work, so several months ago I decided to delete their websites, all of the pictures of their work I saved, and put their books back on the bookshelf. I decided to start over with what I knew was my original style.

I spent some time thinking about my work, both professionally and as an artist trying to pinpoint who I was, I was looking for that unique thread. I was looking at the books on my bookshelf and I kept focusing on a book titled, Master Storytelling by Mark Carpenter and Darrell Harmon. I had the unique opportunity to watch Mark work with a group of executives. He started each learning event with a story setting the learning stage. Mark is masterful at what he does.

And there it was. I have known for most of my life starting in my high school English class, that I am a storyteller, I just didn’t embrace it as Mark has. As I think about it, every post I write for Leaderfip starts with a story. Most of my training and learning events start with a story, and now so do my newest paintings. Storytelling, there’s the thread.

So you’re a storyteller, so what?

Storytelling comes naturally to me and it is the basis for my art and my leadership style. When I ask you what kind of a leader are you, I’m asking what you see in yourself as the framework for your leadership. 

In one of my leadership courses at the university, we were required to read, The Bass Handbook of Leadership by Bernard M. Bass. This is a great resource book for leadership research, theories, and managerial applications. This is where I was first introduced to different leadership styles. I was reading through a plethora of styles when I came across one that stopped me and I said, that’s me, transformational leadership.

Transformational leadership has since become the thread in my leadership approach, the framework that has become my leadership style because of my inherent need for storytelling.

Leadership styles

There are many different leadership styles and many of them are a product of circumstance. There are times when business needs, environmental changes, competition, government, or regulatory involvement force people into believing they have to change their leadership style. 

Well, you don’t.  

Leadership is the practice or method of leading people and this should be the framework of your leadership style. Managing is the practice of using the best approach to a current situation, this is called the contingency approach to management. Leaders pay attention to both the situation and their style and make efforts to ensure both interact effectively.

Let’s take a look at some of the more predominant types of leadership styles and their characteristics. In my research, I often come across many theories, concepts, and models that are similar but they have different names. In this case, don’t worry so much about the names of the styles. Here is a high-level overview of the characteristics and decide if any of these are you. 

Situational Leadership – Inception 1969 – Leading based on staff maturity
Situational leadership is flexible. This leader can adapt to the existing work environment and needs of the organization. The leader can easily move from one contingency approach to another. These leaders must have the insight to understand when to change their management style and strategy for each new paradigm. Situational leaders encourage staff to follow them because they are confident in their ability to adapt to and overcome most situations. 
Situational leaders are known for leading based on staff maturity – how long have the employee(s) been with the company, or how long have they been a part of their current team? How knowledgeable and skilled are they in the role they hold or the culture of the organization?
Developing people and workgroups – takes the coach leader approach to improve or develop skills and knowledge to aid in working with challenges or change.
Establishing rapport and bringing out the best in their people – Builds trust, and respect, and encourages creative thinking. 
Adaptability – The ability to manage situations or challenges by using a contingency approach.
Authentic Leadership – Inception 2001 – Building legitimacy through honest relationships
Authentic leadership is a leader who deals straightforwardly and honestly with staff. Transparency in communication, expectations, accountability, and team values is the hallmark of an authentic leader. Here are four distinct components of an authentic leader.  
1. Self-awareness is a prerequisite for being authentic. This leader has a realistic understanding of their strengths, limitations, and values. They are honest with themselves and ask for help or assistance in developing or improving their skills and personal development. 
2. Transparency or being genuine. An authentic leader does not play games or have a hidden agenda. People know where they stand with an authentic leader.
3. Being fair-minded. Authentic leaders solicit opposing viewpoints and consider all options before choosing a course of action. Plans are well thought out and openly discussed.
4. Do the right thing, from an internal moral perspective. An authentic leader has an ethical core. Doing the right thing is driven by concerns for ethics and fairness.
Servant Leadership – Inception 1970 – Serving staff honestly and fairly
Servant leadership is a set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals or groups, support personal well-being, build better organizations, and create a more just and caring environment. Servant leaders often roll up their sleeves and jump into the trenches to lend a hand or grab a shovel in support of their staff. 
Servant leaders consider the needs of their staff first. These leaders focus on satisfying the highest-priority needs of others and have a strong sense of caring (empathy) and responsibility for their staff.
They are committed to helping and assisting staff to develop expertise and improve performance.
They support the organization in making a positive contribution to the community and society. They are committed to helping and assisting staff to develop expertise and improve performance.
 Agile Leadership – Inception 2006 – Leading through a wide range of ambiguous circumstances
Agile leaders can adapt to an ever-changing and uncertain environment. These leaders have a passion for learning, innovation, and developing people, and have a clear vision for their staff and organization. Agile leaders strive to remove roadblocks to success so that employees can be more effective and productive. 
Agile leaders set a clear vision that their team can embrace and own. – They focus on better business outcomes without sacrificing staff.
Agile leaders believe in their mission and live it daily. Agile leaders lead by example this is why they need a clear set of values and a clear vision.
They build a culture of self-organized and self-managing teams. Agile leaders empower their teams and work towards assisting their teams to reach their full potential.
They help their team members take care of and deliver value to their internal and external customers.  
Adaptive Leadership – Inception 2002 – Taking on change and growth over time
Adaptive leadership is a style of leadership designed to address complex, long-term problems and challenges. This leader seeks to resolve recurring organizational problems through systematic changes and is based on the idea that difficult problems are best solved with input from the whole team or organization.    
Adaptive leaders create an open-minded and progressive environment where mistakes are accepted as part of the process.
They understand and appreciate the challenge. They prepare their team members for problem-solving and are ready to try several different approaches to the same challenge.  
Adaptive leaders embrace uncertainty. They know that not having an immediate answer to a problem is part of the process of positive change. 
Adaptive leaders take a proactive approach. They identify challenges and invest whatever resources, time, and personnel are needed to solve them.  
Transformational Leadership – Inception 1973 – Delivering transformational change in tandem with the team
Transformational leadership is a style in which leaders encourage, inspire, and motivate employees to innovate and create change that will help to grow and shape the future success of the company. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate staff without micromanaging, they train staff to take accountability and authority over the decisions they make.
Transformational leaders are coach leaders involved in the development of their staff and allow staff to make decisions and take ownership of tasks.
They foster a safe workspace with clear values, priorities, and work standards.   
Transformational leaders build company culture by encouraging staff to move from an attitude of self-interest to a mindset of working for the common good where everyone is successful.
Transformational leaders take a proactive approach. They identify challenges and invest whatever resources, time, and personnel are needed to solve them.  
These leaders emphasize authenticity, cooperation, and open communication. 

There are many more styles of leadership and deviation styles that support a more specific approach to leadership. The point is to think about your leadership foundation. It helps to identify with a specific style especially if you are working on your leadership philosophy

You don’t have to commit to one style

As in many things, one size does not fit all. Feel free to mix and match characteristics of many different styles to find your unique leader self. 

As I said at the beginning of this post I am a transformational leader, this is my foundation and I have added to it characteristics of other styles. I find myself exercising characteristics of the servant leader, the adaptive leader, and the authentic leader depending on the situation, oh yes, include that style too.

The contingency approach to managing 

Your leadership style should always be your true self. In every situation, the more consistently you lead people, the more they come to trust and respect you because they know what to expect from you when things get rough. So when situational variables change what do you change?

You adjust your managing approach. 

Here I go simplifying things again. As I said, I don’t believe we necessarily have to complicate things, it does help to understand some of the basics. 

A variable can directly influence the outcome of a project, training, or a staff member’s performance. Variables can be any number of things but mostly one of these three, a predictor variable, a dependent variable, and a situational variable, and the causal effect of each variable.    

In this discussion, I want to look at seven types of basic managing approaches that can be used in conjunction with your leadership style in different situational variables. 

When a situational variable presents itself there are different ways to approach the managing of staff as you work through the challenge. This contingency approach starts with approaches that use a more authoritative approach and moves to a high-freedom team approach. 

TellsThe leader makes the decisions and expects the team to follow. Useful for new staff but frustrating for experienced staff members.
SellsThe leader makes the decision and provides a rationale for it and the decision will be discussed. The decision will not be changed and the team feels that their voice has been heard whether the team agrees or disagrees with the decision.
SuggestThe leader outlines the decision, includes rationale, and asks if team members have any questions. The team participates in the decision which helps to build trust.
ConsultsA decision is proposed, and inviting input and discussion allows the team to influence the outcome. This approach acknowledges the team has valuable insight to offer.
JoinsThe leader presents the problem and asks the team how to resolve it. This is a collaborative process and the team feels valued and trusted.
DelegatesThe leader outlines the problem and allows the team to find a solution. The team makes the final decision and the leader is accountable for the outcome.
AbdicatesThe leader asked the team to define the problem for itself and decides how to solve it. The team makes the final decision and the leader is responsible for the outcome be it a success or failure.

The challenge is to maintain your leadership style while adjusting to different managing approaches. 

My transformational style is closer aligned to joins, delegates, and abdicates, but how do I stay true to my style while I’m telling, selling, or suggesting? If you think about it, you will begin to identify ways you can use any of these approaches combined with your leadership style.

Exercise | Deliberate practice

The first thing to do is to identify your preferred leadership style if you don’t already know what it is. You can start with any of the styles I mentioned. You can also do a web search using the keywords leadership styles. Look for a style that feels right to you. In your journal write down the characteristics that you feel are your preferred style. Continue searching different styles and see if there are attributes or characteristics of other styles you feel represent who you are.

The rest of your practice is to observe yourself in your everyday work, in other words, self-awareness. In your daily actions do you exhibit the attributes of the leader you believe you are? If you want to up your game, tell a peer what you are doing and ask them to observe you too. 

When you need to manage a situation whether it is a policy or a process change, or even a behavior change in a staff member, think about the contingency approach you would take then think about how you would present that approach with your leadership style.  

The more consistent you can be with leadership the more your staff will understand your expectations. They will be able to build trust and respect towards you because you are being your authentic self. This will go a long way with them practicing their authentic selves and together you begin to build a very connected and high-performing team.

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.   

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