Leadership is often assumed to be a single skill, something you have either got or you haven’t got. In truth it’s very different. Think about great leaders from history, sport and your own life, some will be strategists, others visionaries or great motivators. Think about the parent as a leader with roles such as nursing, peace making, managing 101 things at once and we can start to appreciate that leadership has several facets, each suited to different situations.
In the beginning
Three styles of leadership are required at the outset of a project. The visionary must cast the vision and enthuse his followers to stop what they are doing and refocus onto the new task. Theentrepreneur will have the determination to give the project momentum and turn the idea into reality, ideally with the help of the strategist who will have already broken the big picture down into manageable chunks.
On the journey
Along the way as critical decisions need to be made, it will be the directional leader who decides with certainty whether to grow or consolidate. This skill is not to be confused with those leaders who change for the sake of change, in the vague hope that it will work and that they will come out looking good.
The team maker will instinctively gather together an army of implementers with the necessary skills to move the project forward. This leader could simply be described as a good judge of character, but he or she will also have an intuitive understanding of the strengths that already exist within the team, ensuring that imbalances are compensated by new additions. Keeping the programme on track will be the monitor, all too often this skill is overlooked because those that possess it don’t have the charismatic approach associated with leadership. However monitors play an essential role in setting milestones and ensuring that everyone is moving in the same direction at the same pace.
Keeping the troops energised is the role of the motivator and the shepherd. The motivator sets goals, gives incentives and celebrates achievement while the shepherd focuses on the individual’s welfare. In a results based world the shepherd is often seen as a hindrance to getting the job done but ask those who work for these pastoral leaders and very often you will see their motivation to achieve the task on time and to standard is way above average.
When it goes wrong
We all know of stories where a leader has taken on a failing organisation and turned it around. These re-engineering leaders thrive on taking teams apart and putting them back together again. With the benefit of experience elsewhere they can see where an organisation is going wrong and know exactly how to put it right. Once this is achieved though they may not have the skills to maintain the momentum and cast a vision for the future, like the entrepreneur they will be hungry to start a new challenge.
When it goes right
The vision has become reality and brought with it several new visions, the danger is that each will follow it’s own course rather than supporting the others. The bridge-builder will have spotted this and will know how to listen, arbitrate, negotiate, compromise and relate to a large cross section of people. To steer each towards a common goal without detracting from their individual missions.
Now think back to past leaders you have served and identify which of the ten styles they demonstrated and in what environment. Compare them to your own situation and consider which aspect of your leadership style you need to develop.
Leadership skills are becoming essential for aspiring managers and leaders; Masters in Public Administration degrees focus on improving these skills.