What’s Your Leadership Style?

Image of butterfly metamorphosis

We live in the age of abundance.  We have more resources accessible to us than ever before.  Where previously knowledge and education was only for a select few, now everyone has access to ivy league universities and online libraries. Want to know how to do anything?  Just Google it.

Where before the industrial age we were doomed to goods and services available in your close vicinity only, with the internet and industrialization, everyone, even in remote African villages, has access to most goods and services.   Want it?  Order it on Amazon.  With the rise of green energy and renewable resources, the scarcity of fossil fuel energy sources suddenly poses less of a threat.

Yet, leadership is still only accessible to the top 1% of most organizations, even though the drive for autonomous teams are on the increase.

Where during the industrial revolution the focus was on making resources accessible to everyone, in the information revolution and the age of knowledge workers, leadership is the resource we need to develop and make more accessible. The evolution of leadership styles reflects this need.

What’s your color?

In his groundbreaking book called Reinventing Organizations, Frederic Laloux compared the development of organizations to childhood development. Each new paradigm of organizational growth is associated with a specific color and requires a different leadership style.  At the lowest end of the spectrum is the oldest magic magenta and impulsive red paradigms, where organizations were tribal and the survival of a tribe was as a result of its leader.

image of organizational development

Organizations operating from a red paradigm are typically driven by fear and can be compared to a mafia gang.  The following stages of organizational development, as it progresses through amber, orange, green and finally teal, each adds certain valuable characteristics to organizational development, and with that changes to leadership styles.

The preceding paradigm is not worse than the following, just like a toddler is not better than an infant.  It is merely different stages of development, each adding something unique and even necessary.

Orange, for example, adds the repeatability of processes and roles and introduce meritocracy, where leadership is no longer associated with royalty, but on skill and worthiness.  Teal, the most evolved or mature organization, has a leadership style with shared decision making and coaching rather than the authoritarian style of a red organization.  For the organization to evolve, the leadership style needs to evolve.

Comparing different leadership styles

Just like each organizational development style brings different benefits to an organization, so each requires a different leadership style.  The one is not better than the next, it is just more suitable as the primary leadership style in the organization.  A good leader, however, is able to switch between any of these leadership styles.

There are many different types of leadership styles and a google search reveals more styles than what can be included in one post, many of them very similar.  This post focuses mainly on three of these styles.

Authoritarian Leadership

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The Authoritarian Leadership style, familiar to many of us in larger organizations, is characterized by close supervision, control, and lack of input from the team.  This style of leadership is suitable for amber organizations.  Transactional leadership, which is the typical micro-manager style, is closely associated with this leadership style and more suitable in an organization operating from an orange paradigm.  Here power is closely controlled by the main decision maker or CEO and information flows downstream only on a need-to-know basis.  The keywords for this style of leadership is dictator, strict, and rigid.

Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership, compared to Authoritarian Leadership, introduces more freedom and distributed decision making.   This leadership style allows people to make decisions and self-organize — two very necessary ingredients for autonomous teams.  The key-words for this type of leadership is humble, caring and trustworthy.

Servant Leadership essentially focuses on solving problems and removing stumbling blocks to help the team be more productive. It’s about protection. 

This leadership style can be compared to nurturing the golden goose, creating an optimum environment for the goose to lay its golden eggs. The golden goose (or rather geese) are the team members. The people who actively build and put into reality what is dreamed up by Business and Marketing.

Compared to all the other leadership styles, this style is about service and helping the team.  It is focused on the followers.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership, however, doesn’t merely nurture the golden goose, it is a breeding farm producing golden geese. This leadership style focuses on developing problem solvers,  not merely solving problems.  This evolutionary style of leadership makes leadership accessible to everyone.

Transformational leaders create more leaders.

There are many similarities between Servant Leadership and Transformational Leadership. Both these leadership styles put the needs of others ahead of their own and both share decision making power, which is necessary for organizations operating from a green and teal paradigm.

The main difference between these two leadership styles is the focus of the leader. The Servant Leader’s primary focus is on his followers whereas the Transformational Leader’s primary focus is on the organization. Where the Servant Leader makes sure that the followers are able to do their job, the Transformational Leader focuses on bringing out the best of each follower.

Transformational Leaders help followers grow, while Servant Leaders simply remove barriers to growth, without intentionally influencing the growth of the individual.

Benefits of Transformational Leadership

Each leadership style has benefits and each is valuable in a given situation. The leader must discern which style to use in a specific situation.  Transformational Leadership, characterized by passion and inspiration, includes the following benefits:

1. Influence behavior

Where with Authoritarian Leadership change is extrinsically motivated, such as monetary bonuses, gifts and other carrot-and-stick methods of motivation, making it a short-lived resource, Transformational Leadership uses intrinsic motivators to inspire change.

The leader never tells the people what to do, rather, they offer to do things for the leader because the leader inspires them so much that they want to serve them and want to help them reach their goal.

It’s obvious why this is an extremely useful leadership style to develop as it frees up the leader from being the strict parent to the visionary and enabler.

2. More sustainable change

More change initiatives fail than not. Fact.

The reason why it fails is that in an authoritarian (or transactional) leadership style environment, people will obey the rules enforced on them. Not necessarily because they believe in it, but because it will keep them safe from harm (such as getting fired). The moment the change initiative is over though, or less focus is placed on it, people tend to quickly return to their old patterns and behaviors.

With Transformational Leadership, however, the change is sustainable as the leader motivates the employees to do things simply because it’s the right thing to do, with the focus on a cause bigger than one person. By empowering people to make decisions and putting a decision-making process in place, they end up making decisions that is best for their team and the organization as a whole, as the focus is always an evolutionary vision or purpose, closely associated with organizations operating from a teal paradigm.

3. Empowered teams exceed expectations

Another major benefit of transformational leadership is that it empowers teams to be the best they can possibly be. That means they don’t need supervision, which frees up the leader to focus on strategy and expansion rather than managing resources, and they are bound to exceed expectations.

Inherently, people want to be seen as good. In certain work cultures, this goal is achieved by making someone else look bad in order for you to look better (which never really works). In a more empowered or mature work culture, this means each person will go to extremes to find a solution to a problem that will allow them to shine.

When everyone in the team can be the best version of themselves, while working towards a shared goal, the results by far outweigh what could be achieved by one person’s idea of success.

The need for leadership

Today, more than ever before, we need to make leadership more accessible.  No longer can companies afford to spend their most expensive resources managing other resources, ultimately slowing down the productivity of the entire organization.  To stay ahead of the competition, you need to create more leaders.

Leadership, however, is not about being important or having a title that says CEO or Founder or being paid more.  Leadership is about ownership.  It’s about responsibility. It’s about building trust and earning respect.

It’s about being the best version that you can be – whether you are a parent, a postman, or the CEO of a large corporation.  What is your leadership style?

 

 

Cover photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash
Images on organizational development and leadership styles created by the author.

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Karin Dames

Karin Dames

Productivity coach at funficient
With 20 years experience in the software development industry, Karin specializes in helping teams get unstuck, innovate, communicate and ultimately be more productive. She believes in efficiency through fun implementing lean, agile and gamestorming as tools for process improvement. Her goal is to create more happy, healthy and whole workplaces where each person thrives and productivity soars.
Karin Dames
- 2 years ago
Karin Dames