Sunday, July 27, 2014

Who Do You Serve as a Leader?

Asking the question whom do you serve? is a powerful vector on which to build a useful typology of leadership where answers will range from the macro answer of ‘stakeholders’, to the micro response of the organisation, the shareholders, the board, and where some may unfortunately even say themselves.
In an interesting 2011 article Mitch Maidique identifies and describes six different types of leaders in respect of who they believe they serve. Where these six different types of leaders are;
At the base of the model is the person who literally serves no one: the Sociopath. Someone who genuinely has the antisocial personality disorder, exhibiting abnormally low empathy and who instinctively destroys value, himself, and, ultimately, those who surround him as well.
The second level is the leader who serves only himself or herself, often at the expense of others: the Opportunist. These are the people who always ask, ‘what's in it for me?’ Their moral compass is guided primarily by the accumulation of wealth and power, all else be damned. Bernie Madoff, now in prison, is a poster boy for the Opportunists. Lesser known, is Jeffrey Skilling, the Enron CEO who sold off tens of millions of dollars of stock just before Enron filed for bankruptcy, claiming he had no knowledge of the scandal that would engulf his company. He was sentenced to 24 years and four months in prison.
At the next level sits Chameleons. These are the ‘leaders’ who bend with the wind and strive to please as many people as possible at all times. In some cases this could be the group they work with; in other cases, the regional or national electorate. It is difficult to find renowned corporate leaders who fit this category because in business, typically, the Chameleons are weeded out before they reach the top.
The level-four leader, the Achiever, fills the senior executive ranks. These leaders rarely fail to achieve their goals and often exceed sales quotas, create generous profits, and are frequent stars at merit-award dinners. The Achiever, to use Peter Drucker's felicitous phrase, is often a "monomaniac with a mission" and is focused, energetic, results-oriented, and highly prized by top management. Achievers pursue goals established by their bosses or by themselves, in a single-minded manner. Therein lies the Achilles' heel of Achievers: They drive toward a goal without giving much consideration to the broader mission.
The level-five leader, the Builder, strives not to reach a goal but to build an institution. Builders are legendary leaders such as IBM's Tom Watson Jr., GM's Alfred P. Sloan, and Harpo's Oprah Winfrey. These people serve their institutions by managing for the long term and not allowing themselves to be seduced by the twin mirages of short-term profit or stock market valuations. They have a grand vision for the future of their organizations, and they infect others with their energy, enthusiasm, and integrity. These are the leaders we write books about, examine and try to learn from and emulate.
Builders are few and far between, but there is an even rarer type of leader who transcends the Builder: the Transcendent. These level-six leaders transcend their organisations or political parties, as well as their ethnic or racial group. These leaders focus beyond their organisation and fully embrace the concept of corporate social responsibility and look at how to benefit all of society.
Though Maidique doesn’t identify any business leaders in this category he mentions that there is no better example of what it really takes to be a Transcendent than by looking at the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
Often with these kind of lists students and business experts alike often challenge the ‘titles’ given to the different types of leaders rather than looking beyond titles to actions. If the leaders of today and tomorrow could find the time in their hectic schedules to seek to understand that who leaders serve goes way beyond their organisations and their shareholders, and should in a 21st global economy include serving their communities as well.
Beyond the above todays leaders should inspire others to follow in their footsteps and their leadership styles. Leading isn’t easy – but we can make it much more effective if we can learn from what great leaders really focus on and who they really serve.
Maidique, M. (2011). Are You a Six-Level Leader. Harvard Business School. [On-line:]

No comments:

Post a Comment