When you think about great leaders, who comes to mind? Is it the captains of social media, the technology giants that started in their garages, the new retail billionaires, the philanthropic rockstar, or perhaps the coach of your favorite sports team? What makes them so effective and why do we love them— or, love to hate them?
I’ve been dancing with leadership for a long time, but I stepped all over its feet for years. I had accepted the mantle of leadership, had the business card that set an expectation of
leadership, but I still didn’t really get it. My real introduction to leadership came from one of my most influential mentors, Mr. Bill Schultz. Bill is the iconic CEO that delivered Fender from the doldrums of the CBS era. Once while we were at the Musikmesse Frankfurt for the European trade show, I knew Bill typically got up pretty early and had breakfast. I took advantage of these moments whenever possible and as luck would have it, Bill sat alone at the Maritim restaurant and I asked if I could join him for a quick bite.
Bill invited me to sit down and I quickly seized the opportunity to table my concerns in search of some insightful direction. The core of my issue was people. Imagine that. I was struggling with a handful of really creative, diverse, and complicated individuals. I couldn’t get them aligned as a team and I was running out of ideas. When I finished my pseudo ranting cry for help, Bill stood up. He paid the check, looked at me, and said “Richard, lead your people—don’t manage them” and walked away. Ok, I’ll admit, I had no idea what he meant, but eventually with his help, six months of non-elective corporate counseling, and a lot of humility, my leadership perspective emerged. Here’s the punch line—
Leadership is a state of mind, not a title!
As such, we are all invited to participate.
Many times we sit passively in anticipation of leadership “happening” to us. We are all called to serve and to lead. You don’t need to be running a Fortune 500 company to find yourself in a leadership position. If you have children, run a household or coach your daughter’s soccer team, you are called to lead. Leadership is a responsibility at every level.
As a leader, It’s important to understand how you come across to others. No one is going to rally to your cause, support your vision, or follow you if they don’t like the way you come across. Strong leadership is about building trust through interpersonal effectiveness and understanding the needs and preferences of others. That said, each style has situational strengths that make them well suited for success in specific areas. Let’s examine seven unique approaches or Leadership Styles. Which one are you?
7 Familiar Leadership Styles
1. Diplomatic - These are typically great leaders to work for. They solicit the input of others when making decisions, listen well, and have an easy problem-solving style. They rarely spin “the wheel of blame” and take responsibility for their misses. This style effectively serves a broad scope of leadership challenges.
2. Autocratic - It’s my way or the highway. This leadership style makes decisions based on their personal beliefs and isn’t interested in the input of others. You see this style in some sports organizations, with politicians, and military leaders.
3. Strategic - These individuals see the big picture and all the details that matter. These leaders are involved, engaged, and informed. It’s easy to misinterpret their tactical and strategic energy for micromanaging. They understand successful execution requires intimacy and alignment.
4. Transactional - These leaders utilize rewards and penalties to inspire and motivate. They direct in a pseudo autocratic manner. They aren’t looking for much input. It’s all about the results. Military, sports, and manufacturing are areas you will observe this style. It fits well with high performing, self-driven individuals.
5. Transformational - This leadership approach is in high demand today. When it’s time to reimagine your business this is the style of leadership that can get the job done. To reinvent you must challenge the status quo, be open to learning, and curious. These leaders encourage and elevate creative thinking and mine the intellect of the team.
6. Coach - Pretty obvious, but consider the implications. This style elevates individual performance and as such the organization’s or team’s performance. It’s a supportive style that reduces stress. They offer a lot of clarity and reinforcement of foundational capabilities. You know where you stand with these leaders. Coaching styles see weakness as an opportunity.
7. Servant - These leaders put the needs of people first. Their philosophy focuses on the individual, not the organization or government. They listen intensely and seek understanding. Personal accountability and creating trust are areas of focus. This leadership style can drive great change at a grassroots level.
Each of these styles is unique and well suited for many distinct situations, and ill-suited for others. What’s your default style? Are you the Strategist at work and the diplomat at home? Since we all wear the cloak of leadership, it’s important to understand how we come across to others when we are attempting to influence a specific outcome.
No matter what your default style is, understanding what motivates others, what works for you, and what doesn’t will make you a more versatile and complete leader. Now let’s take a look at leadership attributes and behaviors that Do Not Rock. These are the twelve bad habits of ineffective leaders you need to avoid.
The Dirty Dozen Leadership Fails
Poor or ineffective communication
Failure to establish clear goals
Failure to take decisive action
Insulting or demeaning behavior
Inappropriate interpersonal behavior
Refusal to delegate responsibility
Disengaged from the core mission
Anger and negativity
Regardless of your default leadership style, or where your influence is applied, try to avoid these demotivating behaviors. Strive to understand how others perceive your leadership approach. Don't confuse strategic leadership with micro-managing; understanding the details is one thing, accountability without autonomy is another.
Leadership is a state of mind! Don't wait for it to happen to you, own it, curate and refine it. Pick up that piece of trash on the floor everyone walks by, differentiate through accountability, integrity, and excellence. Be a leader that ROCKS!