Sunday, October 13, 2013

Just How Confusing Can We Make Leadership?

Daniel Goleman asked the question that many people have; "what do effective leaders do?" and you'll hear a host of answers. Leaders set strategy; they motivate; they create a mission; they build a culture. Then ask "What should leaders do?" If the group is seasoned, you'll likely hear one response: the leader's singular job is to get results.
In recent years, that mystery has spawned an entire cottage industry: literally thousands of "leadership experts" have made careers of testing and coaching executives, all in pursuit of creating businesspeople who can turn bold objectives, be these strategic, financial, organizational, or all three, into reality.
Still, effective leadership eludes many people and organizations. Leadership experts offer advice based on inference, experience, and instinct. Sometimes that advice is right on target; sometimes it's not.
Goleman highlights how research by the consulting firm Hay/McBer, which draws on a random sample of 3,871 executives selected from a database of more than 20,000 executives worldwide, takes much of the mystery out of effective leadership. The research found six distinct leadership styles, each springing from different components of emotional intelligence.
The styles, taken individually, appear to have a direct and unique impact on the working atmosphere of a company, division, or team, and in turn, on its financial performance. And perhaps most important, the research indicates that leaders with the best results do not rely on only one leadership style; they use most of them in a given week – seamlessly and in different measure - depending on the business situation (p.78-79).
The six leadership styles identified from the research are;
1) Coercive leaders; who demand immediate compliance;

2) Authoritative leaders; who mobilize people toward a vision;

3) Affiliative leaders; who create emotional bonds and harmony;

4) Democratic leaders; who build consensus through participation;

5) Pacesetting leaders; who expect excellence and self-direction; and

6) Coaching leaders; who develop people for the future.
But what was fascinating with the research is that they found that authoritative leaders were the most successful in getting results and creating a positive climate; and though identified as a style, coercive and pace-setting leaders were seen as negative leadership styles and responsible for creating negative organisational climates.
One of the biggest problems with discussing leadership is that we don’t often check that we are discussing the same key issue and are even coming from the same basic foundation about definitions of leadership.
For example, if you asked business leaders to define authoritative leaders, it’s possible that traits like power and direction would be included in the list. Yet in the definition used in the Hay/McBer research an authoritative leader was defined as a style that embraced; mobilised people towards a vision, a ‘come with me’ approach; self confidence; empathy; change catalyst and is used when changes require a new vision, or when a clear direction is needed.
But traits and terms like ‘mobilising people’; empathy; self-confidence; and a catalyst of change; are behaviours that have been attributed to other leadership styles, specifically transformational leaders compared to the traditional ‘power’ based approach of ‘authoritative’ leadership.
So are we losing sight of what leadership is all about when we start confusing different leadership styles and successful leadership traits? The biggest danger in leadership development is that those aspiring to be a successful future leaders lose confidence in those who are supposed to be developing them – and the quickest way you’ll do that is by confusing basic traits and styles of a great leader; something that is often done with little regard for leadership development and is all to do with personal commercial gain.
Organisations, academic institutions and consultancies should focus on developing common themes and common traits for great leaders. They should be speaking as one and agreeing on the real behaviours that support the development of a great leader at different stages of the organisations life-cycle.
The more we confuse the subject – the less we’ll develop truly great leaders for the future.
Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets Results. Harvard Business Review. Vol. 78 Issue 2, p.78-90.


1 comment:

  1. Perception is the paradox of Mind. So, one method to understand leadership is, "Leader is one who develops others as Leaders through Self Disciplined Behaviour for long term benefits of the Society at large."