One size never fits all.
Are leaders born or made? Yes they are. Just like all skills. Some level of talent is simply baked into our DNA at birth. However, most of the skills we need to excel in today's world can be developed and honed. Particularly when it comes to selecting the correct leadership style for each particular situation. No one style fits all situations.
All of us tend to have one or two default leadership styles. Usually we've learned them by emulating previous bosses who we considered great leaders. These styles work, and helped you get to where you are.
How many times have you been asked, "which hat are you wearing?" when starting a discussion? This question is often used to help understand your perspective or bias on any given issue.
But I'm challenged by this question.
Every day, 24x7, I wear many hats. I'm an entrepreneur, a husband, a father, a consultant, a volunteer, a bass guitarist, a flower grower and a KC civic leader. I always have all of those hats on; the better question is which hat is in front right now? I envision my leadership styles like the garment rack at the dry cleaner. It spins around with numerous clothing items (hats) and keeps rotating until the proper style reaches the front.
We've had the privilege to provide leadership coaching and training to numerous clients. We help leaders understand two things: each leader actually owns several effective leadership styles and should pause for just a few milliseconds to consciously choose the best style for each scenario.
Here are three different leadership styles I suspect you've implemented or experienced:
There are certain times when the leader simply knows she is right. This approach works when time is short and it’s most important to move forward as quickly as possible. In these situations, choose the My-Way-or-the-Highway leadership style. Your team will appreciate quick decisions, as long as you are right and graceful about it. This approach will not work on a sustained basis, but remains one important option.
As a Servant Leader, your job is to remove obstacles and barriers while providing whatever the team needs. You are working for them, essentially. After the members of the team agree on the end-in-mind, as a servant leader, you now step back and wait to be asked for help. Let the team lead you. This is a terrific approach when you are empowering and team-building.
Where do shepherds lead their flock? From behind. A variation from the Servant Leadership style, the shepherd keeps all of the strays (both people and issues) from being left out. The Shepherd leads by asking questions and gently nudging the group to march together. As the old proverb states, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." Shepherd leaders provide exceptional training opportunities to grow more leaders.
Now, let’s look at a real-world situation.
You have an opportunity to approach a current client with a new opportunity. They've opened the door for a possible up-sale by your team.
You'll have 30-minutes next week to meet and share your idea with your client. All three of these leadership styles might be best; here's how to think it through.
Use the My Way if you are super crunched for time, you already know exactly the best way to share your concept with your client, or if you simply have more knowledge than your team does to make this choice. Use Servant if you have a solid team in place. Perhaps they've already developed how best to present your offer, or you're grooming a colleague for a promotion. Use Shepherd if you know this team may not be as inclusive as necessary or if they don't consider that they may leave someone behind.
No single leadership style is right for every situation just as there is no single dress shirt that is right for every outfit. Make conscious decisions on selecting the leadership style you choose based on each real-world situation. You have an entire closet filled with various leadership styles that will help you become ever more effective and efficient
Here's to growing more leaders! Onward...