Everyone agrees that most people default to one or two leadership styles, and that a skilled leader develops the flexibility to adopt different leadership tactics tailored to the situation.
However, most discussions overlook how our natural style drives us to use certain strategies over others, creating blind spots. Such vulnerabilities are the shadow side of our greatest talents, occurring when we apply what comes naturally at inappropriate times or in inappropriate ways.
Your natural style is defined by four drives, at least one or two of which are particularly strong, making them hard to turn off. Self-awareness is key to effective leadership, as well as understanding what drives each of your subordinates.
Command and Control vs. Collaborative Empowerment. This leadership continuum is defined by your need for ownership. Command and control leadership has gotten a black eye in today’s flatter organizational structures, but has its place. Such leaders provide a strong sense of direction, guidelines, and standards. When guiding an inexperienced team, or in a business crisis such as a turnaround, command and control leadership is often the most effective. The dark side comes when the leader feels out of control and resorts to coercion or micromanagement.
The collaborative leader is one who desires to bring everyone to the table. They are naturally empowering, encouraging, and inclusive rather than critical and discriminating. Their talents are most valuable in highly motivated teams of experts who can generate structure and standards for themselves. Collaborative leadership breaks down in their aversion to confrontation. Such leaders often fail to intervene quickly or forcefully enough with disruptive personalities or weak contributors.
Task Oriented vs. Vision Oriented. The second axis of leadership describes your need for personal involvement. Task oriented leaders move quickly into execution instead of admiring the problem, are grounded in practical realities, drive actionable results, and provide their team with clarity about exactly what is expected of them. They fall down when they overlook the importance of relationship building and attention to morale for achieving their goals. Furthermore, their need to be personally involved often creates an operational bottleneck.
Vision oriented leaders have no problem with delegation; they are masters of the leveraged solution, constantly seeking out strategies that multiply their efforts. They are not afraid to dream big, and they seek to align their team around that guiding vision. Their idealism is both their greatest talent and their Achilles heel. It can make them impractical and lead to a perpetual sense of disappointment with a reality that fails to measure up.
Process Driven vs. Innovation Driven. The third leadership style continuum captures your bias toward structure. Process driven leaders are at their best when they oversee predictable systems and processes and their mandate is to get and keep everything running smoothly. They are masters of standardization and contingency planning. When things don’t go according to plan they can lack flexibility and be slow to make midcourse corrections.
Innovative leaders are the bane of the process driven leader’s existence. They constantly tinker with the well-oiled machine to see what happens. They have a natural appetite for customization and variety, and as leaders they give their team latitude for how they achieve their goals. But they often underestimate the inefficiency and loss of productivity their tinkering creates, and they may make midcourse corrections without consulting or informing their team, creating a sense that the goalposts are constantly moving.
Growth Oriented vs. Legacy Oriented. The final dimension of leadership is driven by your appetite for risk. Growth oriented leaders are never so energized as when presented with a juicy challenge. They have a talent for stretching themselves and their organization into new territory, seeing possibilities even where others don’t, pulling off the impossible win. They can be very charismatic and passionate. The dark side of the growth oriented leader is their inability to “just say no.” They often overcommit themselves, and with little or no natural instinct for pacing, burnout is a real hazard for their team.
The legacy oriented leader may take risks, but unlike the growth oriented leader they are always carefully calculated. Whereas growth oriented leaders are perfectly happy with a cobbled-together solution because it’s never been done before, legacy oriented leaders seek to create solutions that are reliable, replicable, and scalable. They can be perceived by others as overly risk averse. More than any other leadership style, the legacy oriented leader often has to be pushed off a burning platform to embrace change.
If you want to learn more about your leadership style, your natural talents and vulnerabilities, and strategies that are leadership best practices specifically for you, contact me to schedule a private assessment and leadership strategy debrief.
Ann Hollier provides strategic consulting and performance coaching to high achieving senior executives and management teams. She specializes in change management, strategic planning and implementation, leadership development, and building world-class collaborative teams. Learn more at http://thecogentexecutive.com/