Much has been written about leadership: rules, pointers, styles, and biographies of inspiring leaders throughout world history. But there are certain leadership ideas that we ourselves fail to recognize and realize in the course of reading books. Here is a short list of things you thought you knew about leadership.
- Leaders come in different flavors.
There are surly different types of leaders and you will probably encounter more than one type in your lifetime. Formal leaders are those we elect into positions or offices such as the senators, congressmen, and presidents. Informal leaders are those we look up to by virtue of their wisdom and experience such as in the case of our elders; or by virtue of their expertise and contribution on a given field such as Albert Einstein in the field of Theoretical Physics and Leonardo da Vinci in the field of the Arts. Both formal and informal leaders practice a combination of leadership styles. Take for example the following varying leadership strategies presented by three different experts:
1. Lewin’s three basic leadership styles: authoritative, participative, and delegative
2. Likert’s four leadership styles: exploitive authoritative, benevolent authoritative, consultative, and participative
3. Goleman’s six emotional leadership styles – visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting, and commanding.
- Leadership is a process of becoming.
There is a common phase that a lot of leadership developers use: “Leaders are made not born.” While I tend to agree with this statement, the term “made” refers to a finished product. However, the process of becoming an effective leader is a process that is never-ending. That being said, leaders are never truly “made” because development and growth should never be a finished product. Keeping this idea in mind, without the right environment and exposure, leaders may fail to develop their full potential. One does not become a leader in one day and just stop, the moment one is “made” is the moment they begin to wither away. Life-long learning is important in becoming a good leader for each day brings new experiences that put your knowledge, skills, and attitude to the test.
- Leadership starts with you.
The best way to develop leadership qualities is to apply it to your own life. When one is incapable of leading themselves, how can they expect to lead others in an effective manner? Leaders are always in the limelight. Keep in mind that your credibility as a leader depends much on your actions: your interaction with your family, friends, and co-workers; your way of managing your personal and organizational responsibilities; and essentially your daily handling/treatment of others. Repeated actions become habits. Habits in turn form a person’s character.
- Leadership styles depend on the situation.
How come dictatorship is accepted in countries like North Korea but not in the United States of America? Aside from culture, beliefs, value system, and form of government, the current situation of a nation also affects the leadership styles used by its formal leaders. There is no rule that only one style can be used. Effective leaders have the ability to recognize various situations and then employ a combination of leadership styles depending on said situation. In emergency situations such as periods of war and calamity, decision-making is a matter of life and death. Thus, a nation’s leader cannot afford to consult with all departments to arrive at crucial decisions. The case is of course different in times of peace and order where different branches of government can freely interact and collaborate. Another case in point is in leading organizations. When the staffs are highly motivated and competent, a combination of high delegative and moderate participative styles of leadership is most appropriate. But if the staffs have low competence and low commitment, a combination of high coaching, high supporting, and high directing behavior from organizational leaders is required.
As aspiring leaders who have had past success, it is easy to get into the mindset that we are experts and that our beliefs and actions are always the most effective. However, it is crucial to keep these 4 realities in mind. Also, never forget that we are never truly “made”. We are in reality in a constant process of becoming.