10x Leadership Styles
A brief overview of the different approaches, a bold prediction and a stark warning
What is leadership?
Based on this Forbes article, Leadership is a vital management function that helps to direct an organization's resources for improved efficiency and the achievement of goals. Effective leaders provide clarity of purpose, motivate and guide the organization to realize its mission. Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to "win" as a team or an organization; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.
What makes a leader?
Daniel Goleman argues that while IQ and technical skills are important, emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. EI is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of the people around you. Five key components are Self-awareness, Self-discipline, Motivation, Social skills, and Empathy.
Different leadership styles are borne out of using these five different components in uniquely blended fashion that matches your personal characteristic. An effective leader practices gradually broadening the number of styles they can use depending on the situation. In fact, this is what makes leadership practice the infinite game - your leadership style must reflect the situation you find yourself in (‘Situational Leadership’) rather than your personal preference. This is also a perpetual exercise in self-discovery. As you can imagine, this is extremely difficult to master as people, situations, and the world around you are constantly changing. E.g. Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt see leadership as a continuum.
Different Leadership Styles
If you do an internet search, you’ll find a ton of articles about leadership styles, dissecting it in many different ways, and probably they are all correct within their context. In this post, however, I wanted to focus on the fundamentals. Daniel Goleman’s categorization captures the essence of it.
(Not So) Bold Prediction
Perhaps Daniel Goleman was quite the visionary when he suggested to exercise caution while using Commanding and Pacesetting styles of leadership. While I have certainly seen benefits of Pacesetting leadership both in the startup world and big tech, with a push towards hybrid/remote world, I predict that we’re coming to an end for the Commanding style of leadership. It’s not a surprise. This is the style of leadership that was borne out of military organization where executive control was top down. In high-tech, everyone is an executive. The only surprise to me is that it took more than a century to arrive at this juncture.
Beware of People Pleasers
Affiliative style of leadership puts people first. It’s good for healing rifts, and reassuring people in stressful situations. These leaders are high on empathy, and have very good listening and communication skills. This is one of the harder styles to master and I’ve seen it degenerate into becoming a People Pleaser. These types of leaders make plenty of time for anyone who wants it, and listens as long as you need them to. They are extremely agreeable, almost to a fault. They will say yes to address the burning process/people/product issue, but have a deep aversion to ever directly making a change that challenges status quo or makes people he cares about unhappy. Often They agree on both sides of arguments. They are clever at dousing the fires, but rarely a problem ever gets root caused or solved. They tend to overpromise and underdeliver, and never learn from the experience to improve execution fidelity. Because people tend to love these leaders, and they often inspire loyalty, it often takes a long time for organizations to weed them out. They can be a huge blind spot for their management as they’re focused on always painting a rosy picture. This creates massive risk for the business and organizations as management doesn’t even know about problems until it’s too late. There are strategies to coach people pleasers and augment their weakness, but the biggest remedy here is “Prevention is better than cure!” as it’s extremely tricky to get this right before the time runs out.
Whether you are leading a small team or a large organization, the leadership style you implement can greatly impact the effectiveness of your efforts and business outcomes. Now you know, there are several types of leadership, and the most effective one depends on you and your team. Identify which leadership styles you are good at and which you may need to develop further.