Wisdom That Works: Leveraging your Leadership

Dave Nelson, CRP, GMS-T - Feb 01 2018
Published in: Ask the Experts

As one of the most popular leadership and management experts in the world, John Maxwell has sold nearly 20 million books on the subject. According to Maxwell, “the ultimate measure of a leader is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” Leadership has little to do with titles and everything to do with results, which a true leader impacts through his or her influence. No matter where you fit within an organization, you can be a difference-maker.

A leader makes the choices from which everything else flows. The most fundamental choice a leader makes is his or her style of leadership. Daniel Goleman’s “Leadership That Gets Results” study appeared in Harvard Business Review in 2000. Goleman’s team analyzed more than 3,000 middle-level managers over a three-year period. They discovered that leadership style was responsible for 30 percent of a company’s bottom line!

What Are Your Leadership Style Options?

Because of its high-potency impact, leadership style has been a topic of interest for generations. Much has been written, and countless models have been codified. In the case of Goleman’s research, six leadership styles emerged:

  • The pacesetting leader, who says, “Do as I do, now.”
  • The authoritative leader, who says, “Come with me.”
  • The affiliative leader, who says, “People come first.”
  • The coaching leader, who says, “Try this.”
  • The coercive leader, who says, “Do what I tell you.”
  • The democratic leader, who asks, “What do you think?”

In a foundational study on leadership behavior published in 1960, Ralph White and Ron Lippitt categorized three styles:

  • autocratic, in which the leader determines policy on behalf of the group;
  • democratic, in which policies are determined by the group with the leader’s assistance; and
  • laissez faire, in which the group has complete freedom with a minimum of leader participation.

A few years after White and Lippitt, Fred Fiedler boiled leadership styles down to two: task-oriented or relationship-oriented. Fiedler’s theory was that team effectiveness depends on an appropriate match between a leader’s style and the demands of the situation.

Which Style Should You Choose?

No one leadership style is always best; circumstances can sometimes dictate the style appropriate for the moment. Be it a choice for the moment or a choice for a lifetime, the choice is always yours. How do you know what choice to make?

What does your head tell you? Learn from others—as much as you can, as quickly as you can, as deeply as you can, as often as you can. Learn from your own experience—when have you been especially effective? When have you fallen flat on your face? Considering what you’ve learned, think for yourself; it may be the hardest work you do.

What does your heart tell you? You may feel the momentary discomfort of facing a first-time challenge or the uncertainty of doing something you’ve done before, but in a new way. That’s normal! On the other hand, you may be uneasy as a result of acting in fundamental opposition to your values, and you don’t want that to ever become normal.

What does your herd tell you? To lead, you must have followers. How responsive are others to you? To lead effectively, you must achieve performance targets. Are you getting the results you need from the team you have? The performance of your herd is the ultimate barometer of the effectiveness of your chosen style.

The above information is excerpted from a February 2018 Mobility article. Read the full text for more information on leadership, including a list of the traits most commonly associated with it.