The term leader gets thrown around a lot. Whether in the office, on Parliament Hill, or within a sports team at any level: you will find leaders. They come in all shapes and sizes, demeanors and attitudes. Speaking from personal experience, I have seen them all, dealt with most, and fulfilled the role once or twice myself. I see numerous articles these days with catchy titles along the lines of “five qualities you need to be a great leader”. Said articles list points like “positive communication, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, having empathy.” However, I would put these skills under the classification of being a good person. Does a leader have these skills? Yes, but so should everyone.
Another confused misconception about leadership is the necessity of being the instructor “the individual delegating or commanding a board room”. These are characteristics of a boss. But a boss isn’t always a leader and vice versa. The point is you don’t have to be the CEO, CFO, Managing Director or Captain of a collegiate sports team, to be a leader. By exhibiting leadership qualities in any role, on any given day, you become that good person, that valuable colleague or teammate we all strive to be.
The best leaders I have worked with or witnessed are not born this way. They are forged out of personal experiences, adversity, and an overwhelming drive to see the people around them achieve success. This is how a leader should be measured: the success he or she fuels in those around them.
So what kind of leader are you now?
What kind of leader do you strive to be?
An Autocratic Leader
The boss! Total authority and control within the place of business, their position grants them final say in almost every decision made. Considered a more traditional way of leading throughout history, this style has generated a negative stigma, as we have developed into a more democratic and progressive society. That does not mean this style of leadership should be lost and forgotten. There will always be situations in which one trusted individual, needs to make the final call on a tough decision. An example of this style of leadership is seen in military situations, or even on a large industrial-sized construction site. A person is chosen to enforce rules that protect the health and safety of those working under their responsible guidance, as an autocratic leader.
“ When placed in command, take charge” – Norman Schwarzkopf
A Democratic Leader
This kind of leader enlists participation from the whole group, when asked to solve a problem or answer a question. They have the ability to mediate discussion with all available human resources, while staying focused on the task at hand. Coming to a collective conclusion or decision takes more time, due to the fact that more people are contributing, but it can also invigorate a more flourishing team environment. In a well-stimulated workplace, everyone gets to provide input. Not everyone’s input will be considered, but this is understood as inevitable. It is the leader’s job to communicate to the team why he or she went a certain route, and then continue to encourage constructive conversation in the workplace, for the greater good of the company. This collaborative leadership and learning is seen in consulting groups, professional sports organizations, wherever a leader requires the expertise of the people around them.
“ Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other” – John F. Kennedy
A Charismatic Coach
This seemingly electric individual transmits a load of energy and experience into a group. They use their charisma to motivate those around them, and their experience to help guide those working with them. Committed to increasing the skillsets of their colleagues, a charismatic coach can make their team more efficient by cultivating a positive environment. This style can be seen in sales groups, retail businesses, and the wider service industry. Most of the time, this leader has already achieved success in the field, and works with people who have much less experience.
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality” – Warren Bennis
So which one are you? What style of leadership works best for what you do, in your work environment? Could you learn to use all three styles? No matter your position, profession, or challenging task at hand, there are qualities from all three leadership types that will help you become the leader you strive to be. I believe a great leader is someone who can watch from the back, and march at the front. An individual who will point thumbs at themselves when times are tough, and point fingers at others when successful times arrive! A constructive contributor will motivate their colleagues not just to see a deadline through, but to create a sense of accomplishment for the people around them. Remember, you don’t need a title to be a good person, to fuel success in others, to live the life of a leader.
Article by Jesse Lumsden.