The Lost Art of Leadership (Or Was It Ever Found?)
In this article, we'll look at:
- How I learned about leadership through sports and my MBA education
- How the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator can help you with leadership
- Dozens of leadership styles
- The relationship between temperament and leadership
- Key traits and qualities of a leader
- How important it is to learn what kind of leader you are
How I Began Learning About Leadership
I have always been into team sports, baseball and later softball primarily. I was in my late 20’s, maybe even very early 30’s, when I became as much of an “athlete” as I ever was going to be. I played in recreational ball and was a reasonable outfielder, not much power but great speed, strong base running skills, and consistently a decent on base percentage. This was a big transition from the teaching / coaching role I had been in since I was in high school. I still had a love to teach and coach, but I knew I would not be able to really play much longer so I took the time to play more than coach before I physically would be unable to play. From a young age, I was also a good teacher; if I knew it, I could teach it. What eluded me until after I played ball for a while was the insight that being a leader was an integral component to being a teacher / coach.
Just a couple years out of high school, at the age of 20, I became manager / coach of my first non-pro baseball team. That season, three-quarters of the entire roster was older than I was, and I was one of the youngest on the team, not even a player. I never went to the field or plate once that entire season. The first half of the season was real tough, I needed to earn the trust of the players which proved more difficult than I had anticipated. By the time we got to the second half of the season, players started to trust me as their leader. By the time the season ended, almost all my players on the team ended going to some sort of a college team. Two of them even went to a Division II school, and one pitched in the national World Series tournament that following year. Not bad for a very young rookie manager.
After having many teams for the next several years, I made a decision in my late 20’s through my mid 30’s to concentrate on just playing, without coach or managing. At the time I had no idea how I would benefit from that decision, but it really did me well to step away from leading a team for a while. You see, when I came back to coaching, after that playing time, I realized how integral of a key leadership was to successful teaching and coaching. That was never really mentioned in any of the books I read or by those that I mentored under. In fact, leadership was so important, that it became a significant door to recruit new players for my teams. I watched the really successful managers and coaches and patterned what I did to mimic their successful methods, not understanding the real mechanics that was being displayed. I was much like a parrot, not understanding what was going on, but merely focusing on imitating what I saw to be a successful teacher / coach. After all, second place is nothing more than first loser and that was my focus to be the best I could be. I have always had a drive to be the best at what I do, some call it being competitive. My wife likes to tell me that not everything is a competition, in which I respond no that is not true, if you do not believe me, just as the wildebeest and the lion. Life itself is a competition.
Being as intuitive with knowledge as I have always been, much of the things I did just seemed to be the next logical progression. As I read books from the Hall of Fame great, Earl Weaver, and listening to the College Hall of Fame Coach, the late Jim Brock, I saw that coaching went beyond teaching and mentoring. It was about instilling values, and is that not leadership by definition? The coaches that impressed me the most were not the ones that spoke often of having an “open door” policy, it was just an understanding that there was always an open door and safe environment behind that door to say what you wanted. These individuals were the type that would do anything to reinforce the example they wanted their players to pursue. Most of them had the “follow me” attitude, not the “do as I say” attitude. It was always lead by example not by directive.
In my career as an architect, those mentors of mine that held that same mindset where the mentors that had the greatest impact on my career. When a leader exhibits a “follow me” attitude, they convey an actual deep seeded belief in what they are exampling. A demonstrable buy-in to what they really hold as values in what they actually are teaching. Leadership is the same way. How does one follow an individual if you cannot implicitly trust that the leader has a handle on where they are leading you? A leader must command an unwavering belief from those being led in order to be successful. Who else could have led the U.S. at such a crucial time in history than a man named Abraham? How does D-Day gain victory if no one had trust in Eisenhower? All this seems pretty intuitive and obvious to me.
Shadow of Discovery
While I learned from the examples set by these individuals, successful leadership still seemed to be uniquely different to each of those successful leaders I observed. To me, one of the most obvious attributes was that each of these successful leaders set the example they expected, not directed actions. I often saw individuals that were invested in those that they led, very much like those leaders at the end of every episode of Undercover Boss I watched. Yet I could not unearth something consistent between each and every one of those leaders. Some leaders that were termed as being “successful” did not exhibit the same qualities as others, yet they were viewed equally as being successful. It was like I could kind of see an impression, but could not get that impression into a solid form.
I intuitively knew about leadership, but I was incapable of forming that knowledge into an equation that could be replicated. As I came to the completion of my MBA, I started to study more and more about leadership traits and styles. All of a sudden, those shadows started to take on a more definitive form that I could actually grasp, dissect, and understand. The key to that discovery was seeing that there are so many differing styles, like architecture, with no one style being ”correct”. I had no idea that the topic of leadership had so much depth that could be quantified and rationalized. Those tools would not elude me much longer as I was gaining other instruments that would allow me to analyze this topic by far greater than I could before. As I continued to learn and study, I became much more adept at recognizing patterns and traits that allowed me to start to form these into fluent ideas and concepts.
Much of that has led me to believe there are many styles for the definitions of what a “successful” leader looks like, and it is from those vantage points that the definition of success rests. I believe that the overwhelming component to this style rests squarely on a person’s values and ethical positions, which is grounded in that person’s belief system. For one to begin to quantify this, a person must start to have a definition and grasp of who they are and what their basic beliefs are. This can be found through many sources, one tool that I found particularly useful for me was the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This is a four-letter designation that provides an idea of what your personality says about you. You can take the test at this website. The result takes four main personality areas choosing between two extremes, i.e. extrovert (E) / introvert (I), sensing (S) / intuition (N), thinking (T) / feeling (F), and judging (J) / perceiving (P). Once your MBTI is established, you can study to find out about yourself, your values, etc. Over the last 15 years or so, I have taken this test three times, with the same results each time, ESTJ.
During my undergraduate work, I took an ethics class. I came to understand that I could not subscribe to consequential ethics as it required me to “know” what is best for the majority, including into the future. Since I have always held that complete knowledge of that type is unattainable, I chose not to fool myself by subscribing to that ethical principle. I found Kant’s rule based ethics much more to who and what I am, however I just could not bring myself to 100% subscription to Kant as it never really addressed my reasons for my rule based ethics. Then I learned about a slight expansion to Kant’s theory, Divine Command. There it was, exactly me. My subscription to rules based ethics is rooted in my faith, nothing else. Almost two years later, as I was coming to the end of my MBA, I discovered the tie between my ethics and my MBTI. While researching a paper for one of my final MBA classes, I encountered that those with “ST” in their MBTI have a strong tendency towards a largely structured and principle ethics behavior. While I knew for a long time who I was, it was amazing to see how some characteristics I recognized actually was identifiable through other reasoning.
Taking of a Form
Once one knows where to look, the information gathered can be immense. Try typing “leadership styles” into Google, it came back with 14.1 million results when I did it. It is impossible to list all the “styles”, but I will outline a few here from various websites:
Autocratic Leader – Boss centered, makes all decisions.
Democratic Leader – Involves subordinates in decision-making.
Strategic Leader – One leader essentially as the head.
Transformational Leader – Initiating change in the organization.
Team Leader – Works with the hearts and minds of those in the organization.
Cross-Cultural Leader – Leads multi-cultural organizations.
Facilitative Leader – Very dependent on measurements and outcomes.
Laissez-faire Leader – Gives leadership to employees.
Transactional Leader – Maintains or continues status quo.
Coaching Leader – Teaches and supervises followers.
Charismatic Leader – Involves transforming followers’ values and beliefs.
Visionary Leader – Results are obtained with and through people.
Authentic Leader – True to oneself in all aspects.
Servant Leader – Servant first, rooted in attitude of service to others.
Ethical Leader – Embraces a journey of integrity, a commitment to the common good.
Bureaucratic Leader – Follows rules rigorously.
One of the things that made it hard for me to recognize the types of leaders those that mentored me had is that I have discovered, as with all things, each person is not made up of a singular style. They are usually a conglomeration of multiple styles. I think that there is more than one style that constitutes the type of leader you become. I believe that this is true because most everyone is not a straight down the line type of person for anything, just look at the MBTI categories. For instance, while I am largely a rule based type of ethicist, I can, at times, see situations from a consequentialist view, no one person is entirely made up from one style / attribute / theme or another, in anything. The key is identifying which one(s) you tend to lean towards and how they interact with the others that will mold you into the leader type that is uniquely you, much like the monopolistic-competitive market in economics.
Once you start to recognize the leader type you are, then you need to understand strategically how best to integrate that within an organization to make the organization successful, and thus obtain, at least in perception, that you are a successful leader. For instance, if you are a visionary leader, then you will have to surround yourself with lieutenants that are more facilitative leaders if the organization’s expectations are based on measurements and outcomes. My admonition here is not to fall into the trap thinking that as the top leader you are not accountable to anyone, because that could not be farther from the truth. Even the CEO of the largest corporation is accountable to the Board of the corporation. If the Board gives a direction, only a fool ignores it goes another direction and expects to keep the job. Everyone is always accountable to someone else. Always!
Like the MBTI you need to assess what tendencies you have as a leader. I, like most everyone else, have worked for the autocratic leader at some time. You know the type, “this place can’t survive without me” attitude. As I see the problem with that type of a leader comes down to one question, if you are so indispensable how do you get promoted? I see this leader type at the end point of their progression. You have made it to this point, but then you become stagnant as a result of your own devices. Does this make sense to everyone else, or am I missing something?
One of the most critical leadership selection mistakes that can be made, by a leader, is the selection of those chosen to lead below you. Often times this selection is a direct result of Peter’s Principle, a concept that I wrote about in a previous article. Peter’s Principle or attrition is possibly the worst selection method for a leader as it does not ensure the selected leader possesses the tools needed to be the leader required. If one comes into an existing organization, it is imperative that each key person is “interviewed” for the task they are in. This will allow the new leader to ascertain that each person is capable of fulfilling the position they are in. Do not accept an individual just because they fill a current position, make sure that they really can meet the demands of the position. Be sure that each individual would be the selection requirements of a new hire. This is especially applicable when looking at promotions. Would you hire someone with little or no experience for the position? If not, do not promote someone, or assign someone, a task that has little or no experience in performing the role or task.
Temperament - An Overlooked Attribute in Leader Selection
Just because a person can tell you everything about how a widget is made does not mean that they are capable of leading a widget making organization. One of the single greatest complaints I have seen over my career about leaders are that they have no time for staff, do not care, etc. Does this sound familiar to you? Have you experienced this before? I think that this often comes from their disposition more than their decisions. If someone always has to remind everyone that they have an “open door” policy, I ask do they? If the policy really exists, why would you have to remind anyone that such a policy exists?
I think that this comes down to a concept that you can catch more bees with honey than you can with vinegar. If you look at all the leaders in history, to begin their rise to leadership that had to captivate and inspire their followers. No matter what they did as a leader, this is a common start, e.g. Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Hitler, Jim Jones, Charles Manson. No matter how honorable or nefarious their objectives were, they all began by captivating and inspiring a follower group. That is the very foundation of leadership. No matter your leadership style, I think it is all completely useless if you cannot capture a following. I think that is just the dark and light of it. No followers, you never become a leader. In today’s world some leaders have a captive following, i.e. business leader, but failing to inspire and captivate followers only leads to an overturn in followers in this captive follower environment.
I find this no different in any organization, be it public sector, private sector, non-profit, or non-government organization (NGO). So, if you want to be a leader, the question is what will be your temperament be when you do lead. I would recommend that you look at your personality traits and use that as base to begin. If you try being someone else when you become a leader, I think you will eventually become conflicted with the leader you want to project and the person you are, and I see that as exhausting by itself. I also see that as being a potential long-term problem when followers start to see you as the leader as two-faced or disingenuous. A leader must become very sensitive to the words used, as most will always be magnified, positive or negative, but especially the negative.
A leader with a good temperament should never tell a subordinate that they do not like getting a phone call from the client. That implies to the subordinate that the leader does not think the subordinate cares when the client calls the leader or is not competent doing their job. How much inspiration does that provide the subordinate? A leader should not be obligated to know everything. Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not a weakness. Unlike stupidity, there is always a solution for ignorance. A great leader offsets ignorance with knowledge, usually by knowledge possessed by someone else.
I remember discussing in at least a couple of my MBA courses about politics in the work environment. This is the use of something other than performance to gain favor with leadership. I always have and always will oppose politics in the office. Ultimately the success of any organization is founded on some sort of bottom line, a quantifiable performance value, then everyone in the organization should be striving for the very same measure. If a staff member is doing something for a leader to gain favor, that places other staffers in an unleveled playing field and potentially lowers the organization’s efficiencies, it will lead the organization to a less efficient and effective result, if not downright failure. It is a leader’s responsibility to prevent this from developing.
Responsibilities of Being a Leader
To me, there is a very profound statement that really encompasses a directive to all leaders, it comes from Stan Lee in Amazing Fantasy #15, “with great power comes great responsibility”. The first thing that any leader must recognize in the deepest part of their being is that absolutely everything they do impacts subordinates and will be re-analyzed by followers and non-followers alike. A leader is in a position of power that can easily be abused. You would have to have been living under a rock to not be aware of all the recent accusations in Hollywood about sexual harassment and assault by those in perceived positions of power and leadership. These events occur when leaders do not have boundaries on what they see as allowable behaviors. These are leaders that set a different standard for themselves than they set for others, that great double standard we have become so familiar with.
No matter what level of leadership you are in, by nature a leader carries an imbalance status of influence. That imbalance of influence must be watched closely so as not to infringe on others, that is the responsibility of a leader. It can be very easy for a leader to take advantage of one, either intentionally or unintentionally. Those leaders that are careless with this perceived power usually end up being notice by the media or law enforcement. Neither will have a positive outcome for that leader’s reputation.
This of course is not limited to the sexual type of situations and allegations, but of more basic ethical types of situations. Take for instance the recent banking issues for opening credit accounts without knowledge of the customer, or the re-arranging of the mortgage terms. I found it very curious that one bank had issues with rearranging debits on accounts to gain more overdraft charges from those accounts, just to see a couple other banks not changing their policies from the same actions, just to get caught up later in the same public notice. Why would all banks not change as soon as they saw the one bank’s trouble?
I often think that many times a leader maintains a current course that they know to be in a non-desirable direction because that leader is reluctant to acknowledge the potential mistake of embarking on that course to begin with. I assure you that changing course sooner will save you from having to mitigate even more. It is always best to admit immediately that you have charted a course off path than trying to fix a course that you have been on too long. Early in my career, the Architect I worked for had designed a house that had a very odd angle, it was not any kind of “standard” angle used in construction. The foundation was poured on an incorrect angle, and the masonry walls were all erected on that incorrect angle. When the interior walls were being laid out, we were notified of a problem. That entire wing of the house had to be re-designed because of this incorrect angle and construction had progressed to far correct. I am sure that as the block was being laid that someone had to notice that something was wrong as they were cutting the blocks, but no one thought about informing us or checking the dimensions of the building.
Traits of a Leader
Many attributes come into play as a leader. A great leader must strive to captivate and inspire followers, this goes far beyond being “liked”. Not all decisions will be liked, but confidence must be instilled by a leader that can “rally the troops” to fall behind any and all decisions. As an umpire, I quickly came to learn that at the end of a game, half the people there will be unhappy. That is a reflection of a well called game. An umpire must understand how to allow play to continue so as not to affect the outcome of the game, but must also maintain control to prevent hot heads and player injury. On the ball field, the coach / manager is the leader of the teams, but the umpire is the leader on the field. A balance is required between all three leaders to make the game successful.
Often, as your leadership role grows and promotes, you must allow yourself to re-envision what you use to see. For instance, as a very long-term coach and player, I always saw and held the infield fly rule as a fairness issue. Once I became an umpire, I re-envisioned the infield fly rule as a safety issue, especially in the lower recreation levels of ball playing. As an umpire I saw how many times a ball would just be flung around the infield with less than major league control, so preventing balls from bouncing off heads, was a great reason to remember this rule. So, I had to reconcile to myself, which view was “correct”, was the infield fly rule a fairness rule or a safety rule? I realized that I was posing the wrong question to myself. Maybe it was not an “answer” that should be sought, but maybe a solution, going back to my roots in architecture. After all, did both perceptions generate the same result? One could certainly argue both for sure.
A leader must have the trust of subordinates, make decisions, and be able to move the organization forward. Leadership is not about having it my way necessarily, but finding ways to move the organization in the direction that meets the objects of the organization’s directors. By keeping the organization’s directors happy, the leader may keep they job of leadership.
One key for a good leader is decision making. A step-by-step process for making decisions might look something like this:
Listing possible solutions / options
Setting a time scale and decide who is responsible for the decision
Weighing up the risks involved
Deciding on values
Weighing up the pros and cons
Making the decision
A good leader should not feel obligated to make every decision, surrounding oneself with people that have complementary strengths will lead to the best results. How does a leader with little understating of very technical issues make a decision? By having a very trusted lieutenant possessing such technical understanding and trusting the advice provided by that lieutenant. I would go so far as to say that this MUST be an implicit trust, not a “trust but verify” approach, which to say the least is not a position of any kind of trust. That line was first coined as a politically motivated statement that wanted to provide the illusion of trust, while having, in reality, absolutely no trust. The utmost key I discovered was that the best assistant coach I could have was one that new pitching, but understood the strategic to some degree that the person was able to execute the game plans I developed. For me, that would be a pitching coach. I never was on the mound, so I need someone that could help the pitchers, but then also could grasp that this game may not be as important as the play-off game that was coming in the next few games.
That lieutenant(s) must be trusted enough that they could come and “smack me up beside the head” to remind me that steering the current course might be questionable at best. If that lieutenant understood my strategic direction well, and had the skills to see strategically then it should be much easier to steer a course towards success for the whole. They must also buy in to the ethical values you have, which will then be transmitted throughout the organization. If you, as the leader, wish to instill that there will be no “cheating”, everyone else will adopt that value. Look at the bank problems I mentioned earlier. If supervisors truly held an ethical value, that they lived by, contrary to that “cheating” (falsely opening of new accounts), the subordinates would latch onto that value as well. The issue would have never been transmitted throughout the organization. If the leader holds to the “win at all cost” value, then the subordinates will find the use of PEDs as an acceptable action. Values start from the leader and flow down, they do not just show up.
Being in sports taught me one thing about life, all leaders eventually will not be there, so if the leader wishes to leave a legacy behind, it must be left in an organization that is sustainable. A strong confident leader should not be afraid of some youngster that is more talented or capable, but should embrace that youngster as a means to continue the leader’s legacy.
It was not until I started my MBA program I ever heard of Peter Drucker, but once I read his first writing, I was astonished at his insight and futuristic approach. He had the ability to see where the current path of an organization was going, predicting the most probable outcomes for that path, then being able to steer the organization on a course that would have a much more favorable future outcome. In an article about effective executives, Mr. Drucker wrote there are eight practices that were followed by effective executives. They are:
They asked, “What needs to be done?”
They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
They developed action plans.
They took responsibility for decisions.
They took responsibility for communicating.
They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
They ran productive meetings.
They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”
Mr. Drucker wrote that the first practice was to ask “what needs to be done?”, not “what do I want to do?” A leader that comes in on the first day and starts to chart a direction without assessing the resources they have at their fingertips, may likely lead the organization onto a path that will require great growing pains, and might even place it on a path of failure. In an interview for a leadership role, I was once asked, “What would you do the first two weeks after you come here?” My first thought was what do you mean two weeks, that is not enough time to do anything. I would have thought that the question posed would have been in the first six months or year to show my long-term thinking abilities, but the question was two weeks. When I looked at the short time frame, the only thought that came to my mind was assess the resources I had. I would need to find out each person on my staff, what the capabilities were of those people, and what the strengths and like were for those people. Only after that could I begin to chart what we could do. To do anything else risked taking the entire organization down my predetermined path, that I had no idea if I had the correct resources for, or if it would be beneficial for the organization. This fits in with Mr. Drucker’s idea of an effective leader. He states that an effective leader does not tackle more than two tasks at a time. After completing the original top priority task, the effective leader does not move onto the second task, but asks “What must be done now?”, which generally results in a new and different set of priorities.
I also read that Thomas Edison actually made job candidates try a bowl of soup before hiring them. Why would Edison do such an act? He watched to see if the candidate would salt or pepper to the soup before tasting it. Those that did, lost any chance of being hired. Edison’s reason was that those that added salt or pepper before tasting the soup made assumptions, and he view assumptions as an innovation killer. He wanted to hire only those that would be the most innovative.
Chad Knaus, six-time NASCA Sprint Cup crew chief for Jimmie Johnson said he always walked candidates out to their car after an interview. Not to see if they had a new or expensive car, but to see if there were candy wrappers on the seats, if the car was clean and well maintained, because he thought that if you are not going to take care of your stuff, “you are not going to take care of ours”. What type of leaders do these sound like?
During my MBA program we discussed several times the act that some new leadership has of immediately cleaning house of old staff when they come into power. I vehemently opposed the concept, having seeing it in my career. I argued that the instantaneous loss of institutional knowledge was completely unacceptable. I never bought into the argument that this could be a means of changing an organization’s culture. However, I have come to understand and accept that sometimes this may be a necessary move for the sustainability of an organization, however that still should not be an automatic act. That act must come from a conscience and determined thought, not a knee jerk to the acquisition of new authority.
An autocratic leader may choose people that do not work well together, but because of their insistence that everything is run through them as the leader these people never have significant interface with each other, and the organization runs along. Then when the autocratic leader leaves, nothing operates because these individuals cannot work together. This team work was never part of the organization’s culture. If this has been years long or decade(s) the culture may be so ingrained that house cleaning may be the only option to make an organizational change in culture.
It is the responsibility of a leader to see what is going on around them, not just look around. That vision must not just be focused on what is happening adjacent to them at the moment, but on how that will have an impact or influence on future events. Consistency is the key. That does not mean that one should not change course ever, knowledge is accumulative and as one gains in knowledge and understanding, sometimes currently held courses and ideologies may become incorrect or undesirable paths, because they are outdated or obsolete, not just from them being “wrong” necessarily. A great leader will recognize the need for a course correction and make it sooner than others. A great leader must always recognize that information is always in a state of in completeness. As information becomes more complete, the necessity for course correction become more apparent. A great leader will not be hesitant to make any such course correction because it may appear that the original decision was “wrong”, a great leader will recognize that the most recent information has changed the conditions of the decision-making basis and that is what requires the course change. It is not an admission of failure, it is an admission that the information has become more complete. A great leader will not make knee-jerk reactions, but will weigh the options looking into the future ramifications.
This may even take the form of hiring and promotion decisions. We often look at the task someone is currently doing and because I could make the transition to that next task level up, expect that others will do the same. That is not always true. Do not expect others to have the same critically thinking and strategic viewing skills that you possess. If one is promoted to a position that they are floundering in, then it is the leader’s responsibility to take them out of a failure condition and place them back into an environment that they can be successful in. A subordinate’s failure is more likely the responsibility of the leader than the subordinate, a leader has the responsibility of delegating tasks, and if one is not capable of functioning in the delegated task, then a change has to be made so both the individual and the origination does not sustain irreparable harm. When a new addition or promotion is made, the leader must set a time frame expectation for full integration of that person into the new role. If there is no full integration into that role within that time frame, assessment is required to understand why there is not a full integration, and everything surrounding that is the leader’s responsibility. It is not a failure, just an assessment / prediction that did not go as planned. That person may still be valuable to the organization, just not in that role, and the leader must figure that out for themselves.
If a leader is incapable of working within the constraints that is expected of others, then maybe it is time to find new leadership, and those that are in a position to change that leadership, have the responsibility to make that change in leadership. The U.S. Federal Government, and most States, are set up in a similar fashion, they have an Executive Branch, a Legislative Branch, and a Judicial Branch. Each having equal power for a balance of power. Many years ago, I was talking with a former member of a Legislative Branch and we were talking about how the Legislative Branch was exempt from complying with the statutory open meeting laws. The former member of the Legislative Branch stated that the Legislature had to be exempt so they can get their work done. Can I call BS!! I said it then and I will say it now, that is pure unadulterated BS. If transparency is so important to have all public meetings comply with these open meeting standards, then that rule should apply to the Legislative Branch as well and without exception. To have the budget passed in the middle of the night, and have limited Committee meetings for public input is a double standard and total unacceptable, which adds up to nothing more than poor leadership in my mind. If one wants the type of power that comes with political leadership, then that person must be able to withstand the heat and scrutiny that comes with that position, otherwise do the public a favor and do not join that type of public service.
If You are Going to Lead – Understand What type of Leader You Are
As I stated previously, whatever type of leader you become, make it congruent with the person you are. If your character is different from the leader type you want to present to others, that conflict will become the foundation for your failure as a leader. Your leadership style(s) must be grounded in who you are and the values you hold. After saying that, and looking at the person, values, and personality traits I hold, I have developed into a leader that has integrated three main leadership styles into my own. I am an authentic leader, and ethical leader, and a servant leader. When you look at my MBTI, it becomes very obvious that my leadership styles would blend into these three main types.
That does not mean that I can bat a ball 420 feet or throw a ball 350 feet, especially as I am now approaching 60 years old, but it does mean, that I remember how to do those things and just want my players to strive for those same goals as I did when I was younger and playing. It does not mean I expect every young Architect to know what I know, just for them to be open to learning what they do not know now. Have an insatiable thirst and hunger for knowledge, just like I do.
The choice of lieutenants is paramount to the success of the organization. These lieutenants have to provide me accurate data in order for me to make the decisions I am expected to make. I must have implicit trust with them, and know that they are in support of me, not trying to undermine (intentionally or unintentionally) me as a leader. I recognize that I do not know all the answers, and I do not try to portray that I do to anyone. I have an incredible strength in research. I can find anything anywhere and if you are discerning, the internet can be a rich resource for research. Always remember, just because it is on the internet does not make it correct, check the sources carefully. I use the rule, out of the mouths of two sources shall something be confirmed. That is two entirely DIFFERENT sources.
The key is to know what kind of leader you are. I chose to look deeply into who I was, especially as I figured out that there was a formula to leadership. I choose not to be a popular one, as I expect half of those I lead to not agree with my decisions, and I seek to rotate members of that unsatisfied group with each decision. That means I am maintaining balance in the organization as a whole. I no longer hold steadfast to previous ideologies I have had in the past, knowing that as I increase in knowledge (even at my age) my concepts must also progress and evolve. That is how I develop as a person. Sometimes as a new leader to an organization I may have to change key personnel, at the very least, to make a shift (especial in paradigm) to a new direction I want to chart. That must be intentionally embarked upon, and well thought out before action is taken, possibly even having a time frame before taking such actions in order to see if the current staff can be nudged that direction.
Like most things in life, there is no one “answer” to what a great or good leader looks like, but there are however many solutions that may lead one to becoming a good or great leader. First is know who you are, before you become a leader. Use tools like the MBTI, strengths profile, and other personality test to become intimately aware of your weaknesses especially so you can select the best people to support your leadership. Take a long-term view of your leadership. Yes, making yourself indispensable may provide some level of job security, but it also has the side effect of limiting promotional opportunities; you may work yourself into a dead in job on that path. Do not fool yourself into believing that as a leader you must know everything. It is not a negative to say “I do not know” something. I am sure there is someone else who does know that, and it would be really advantageous to have that person supporting you as a leader.
Leadership is not always about being in front of everyone, sometimes leaders also play a supporting role. I had a couple former clients that made a comment to me that I saw very complimentary. They said there are kings, and there are king-makers, and I was a king-maker. I have always kind of like that thought. Although Ronald Reagan has been credited with a particular quote, I have never found a report of him ever saying this, but never the less I find still find the quote profound and true. The quote is, “A man can go anywhere, if he does not care who takes the credit.” I have always been a production oriented person, so the highest priority to me has always been on getting the job done, it takes a team effort.
In the 5th century BCE, Lao-Tzu wrote, “The highest type of ruler is one whose existence the people are barely aware of.” I find this very much in the vein of the servant leader type that is so much what I exude as a leader. If you, as a leader, instill throughout the organization strong values, the organization will ultimately radiate those values. Values permeate the whole when they are handed down from the top. When you see banks opening fictitious accounts to meet sales goals or the VA having a “secret” waiting list to inflate performance numbers for leadership bonuses, I will guarantee you that these low-level workers did not come up with this on their own. There was someone higher up that is influencing those actions, the question how high up? Left unanswered is the question what are the real values held by those organizations? Should society come accept this unethical behavior from public and private organizations or should society demand accountability from those that perpetuate this unethical behavior?
When a new hire is made, it is very common to have a probationary period to see if the new hire will work out. Why is it there is traditionally no probationary period for a promotion? Why do leaders not approach promotions in the same manner as new hires? Some organizations have personality test, why are there no ethics tests for leaders to take before hiring or promoting? Maybe the problem is that we hold a completely different standard for leaders as they are often promoted as there first step, not a new hire. Maybe we never lost the art of leadership, maybe we never really found it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Dan Demland