This week’s Pearl of Leadership Wisdom is on…


“A leader is a dealer in hope. “ – Napoleon Bonaparte

Being a leader is easy.

There are many leadership models.

It’s primal…

Daniel Goleman’s is one of the best. He refers to six leadership styles in his book “Primal Leadership”:

* The visionary leader inspires; believes in his own vision. Explains how and why people’s efforts contribute towards the dream.
* The coaching leader helps people identify their own strengths and weaknesses and is a counsellor who encourages and delegates.
* The affiliative leader promotes harmony, is friendly and empathetic.
* The democratic leader is a superb listener, teamworker and collaborator.
* The pacesetting leader has a strong urge to achieve, lots of initiative, high personal standards, is impatient, micromanages and is numbers driven.
* The commanding leader says “do it because I say so”; is threatening, has tight control and drives away talent.

Best fit…

For any given situation there is a best fit leadership style.

The visionary leader is great when a radical change is needed. The coaching leader is just right when competent, motivated employees are available and performance improvement can be nurtured over the long term.

The affiliative leader works when there are rifts in the team, or great stress. The democratic leader is superb when consensus is required, and employee input sought.

The pacesetting leader is useful when the team is high performing already. The commanding leader is good in a grave crisis.

It’s not all good…

Two of these styles are generally seen as having a negative impact on the broad organisational climate. Can you guess which two?

And the losers are…

Firstly, the pacesetting leader, because he requires followers of a strange disposition – they need to be competent, and motivated, yet require no empathy, no feeling of being involved and great resilience to micromanagement. This type of follower exists only rarely. If this leadership style is used exclusively, or poorly, as it often is, it is very negative on organisational climate. It is a style that is seldom necessary and never sufficient. I did have a pacesetting boss once.  He was talented for sure. The experience was unpleasant (for us both).

Secondly, the commander, because he drives away talent. Nobody with any real individuality and self-esteem can work for someone who simply required their will to be carried out because it is their will. It doesn’t work with kids, so why should it work with adults? This is the traditional military model of leadership. I used to work with an organisation that recruited ex-officers for their leadership capabilities. It never worked out. Never. Not once.

It’s all about me…

My leadership style is coach. That’s why I do what I do now. I like to think I have developed real vision for my own business, and that there’s room for democracy and affiliation. I have no interest in pace setting and commanding.

We all have a preference for our individual leadership style. Sometimes we assume our comfortable preference must mean that that preference is appropriate, or right. That’s a mistake. Comfort does not equal correct.

Do you feel me…?

And leadership isn’t about you, it’s about the situation, and how to generate resonance with the team. So they feel you. More than hear you…feel you.

It all comes easily to those with high emotional intelligence (which involves four abilities: self awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management).

Sharpen your pencil…

And the great thing about emotional intelligence is that the four abilities are not innate, they are learned.

Leadership is situational – the right kind at the right time, to the right extent. You need to be the right leader for the situation. It’s not so much about what each individual needs – that’s more a management style issue, which I may write about next week.

The kicker…

I said at the start that being a leader is easy. But that’s not leadership.

Being the right kind of leader at the right time is hard. Unfortunately, that is leadership.

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