We are all aware from our own experiences of teachers, line managers, politicians and fiction that there are different kinds of “leader”. Leaders have a big impact on our lives, therefore the quality of those leaders is extremely important.
However, lets not forget that it is followers that make leaders, if no one follows they remain a lone voice. We create leaders because we need them. It is important that someone takes responsibility. By choosing to follow those with the best qualities (and not following those with the worst) we affect the way our organisations and our society are run.
The descriptions below might apply to anyone in any position in any organisation, attitude is not hierarchical, it is when these attitudes are combined with positions of authority or responsibility that they have an impact on others and organisations.
Ruler – Rulers are relatively rare. We may never meet one personally, but we are likely to be impacted by them anyway. Rulers believe that they have a right to positions of authority and that those positions exist largely to serve their ambition. In making decisions Rulers will have their own personal agenda as a key criteria that must be met in order for an option to be acceptable. These behaviours are so deeply ingrained that the Ruler will not really be aware that they are making a choice to prioritise this way, they will see it as their natural prerogative and as a trade off for their contribution. Rulers see lives defined by right and those with a lesser right exist to serve them. Rulers can be very effective at getting things done and can lead organisations to significant success. Their downside is that Rulers are unlikely to count the human cost or the cost to the future, consequently their success is often temporary, with a substantial cost having to be paid at some point, if they are lucky it will be after their tenure.
Boss – Bosses are common and we will all have come across them. Bosses will have climbed up through the ranks and worked hard at doing the bidding of their bosses to get where they are. They didn’t get to their position by right, but by obedient grafting and political savvy. Having got there Bosses can be insecure, vulnerable to imposter syndrome and both needing of reassurance (from a higher boss) or cautious about taking risks. Like Rulers their own agenda will feature strongly in their decision making criteria. Bosses see life as a competitive game, Rulers were ahead from the start and are to be respected for that and the possibility that they might be the route to advancement for Bosses. In his book “On the psychology of military incompetence” Norman F Dixon describes a time when Bosses were the norm in the military, his conclusion is that if you promote for obedience, the risk is you get Bosses who lack the ability to think for themselves and that is never good at the top of an organisation.
Authentic – Authentics are less common than Bosses, and more common than Rulers. Authentics will often be under appreciated and in more hierarchical/political organisations are quite likely to be regarded as weak and ineffective compared to Rulers and Bosses. Their free thinking inventiveness can also be perceived as risky and or threatening to the same people. Those they are responsible for, however, will love them and this can also make them look like a threat to Bosses in particular. Their need to enrol and include everyone before starting a change project can look slow to Rulers and Bosses used to issuing orders, but is more effective in the long term. Authentics are confident and secure in their own identity and they enable and empower those around them. Authentics see themselves in service to their team and to the organisation as a whole. Authentics see life as a journey of learning and development, both for themselves and for others, they see teaching and enabling others as a responsibility. For more on Authentic Leadership see this post.
Manager – Managers have usually been promoted because of their technical competence in some area, but lack the training (or the self driven learning) so far, to become Authentic Leaders. They are confident in their technical strength and can play to that if allowed, but lack confidence in more strategic matters and will defer hierarchically. The direction managers take may depend on their role model, a Boss might turn them into a Boss or convince them to remain a manager, an Authentic would help them grow either into an Authentic Leader themselves or as a confident technical contributor. Managers will often want to do the best for their people but will always be constrained or enabled by the nature of the hierarchy above them, who they are unlikely to challenge. Managers typically manage established processes to deliver strategies determined by others and can be very effective at doing it.
In terms of leadership development , organisations that seek sustained success, will want to avoid promoting potential Rulers or Bosses without significant training. Once in charge Rulers and bosses will shape a culture to their own ends rather than the greater purpose of the business. At the same time they will make it more difficult for Authentics to shine and will steer ambitious Managers in the wrong direction.
Accurate evaluation of leadership potential at the time of promotion to first level leadership is critical. Most organisations place the strongest emphasis on results as the key promotion criteria. Results are important, of course, but not enough on their own. As we have seen Rulers and Bosses can be very effective at getting results – but often at an unsustainable longer term cost.
We at Holos are working on a leadership evaluation tool that can identify leaders across these four types and the appropriate type of leadership development to get the best out of them, We are looking for a small number of volunteers to take the evaluation and give feedback on it. In return we will give you feedback on your leadership style and most effective development approach. If you are interested in taking part please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Holos we have been studying leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.
Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.
Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.
You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com