Looking for someone to lead the way
Published: Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 5:48 p.m.
Good leaders are hard to come by.
Just ask most people who have bosses or who look to someone to lead their organization.
What is the formula for the most successful leader?
Is it being the compassionate leader who believes people are the most important resource? Or is it the big-picture leader with the charming personality who's great at schmoozing and making connections but rarely gets involved with staff?
Turns out, neither is the best.
Good leaders don't come in one cookie-cutter form. That's the conclusion of a recent PsychTests study. They analyzed more than 7,000 top-performing leaders, revealing five distinct leadership styles.
Like most things, their various styles have strengths and limitations.
The sports coach leader develops staff to become self-sufficient and confident and practices “tough love.” He or she has an energetic but firm demeanor that commands respect and gives credit when due.
But these no-nonsense leaders will not delegate responsibilities or endear themselves to others. They keep their relationship with staff strictly personal. They can be short-tempered and don't have much long-term vision.
The driver-director leader rolls up her sleeves and works as hard as the next person. She's ambitious and won't stop until she attains her objective. Her firm leadership style sets slackers straight.
But this leader also won't delegate leadership responsibilities. She doesn't trust anyone else to get their part of the job done well. She's not skilled in developing others and doesn't mince words or use flowery language to inspire but rather dictates orders and expects them to be done without question.
The mentor strives to bring out the best in people and believes everyone deserves help and a second chance. But he is not comfortable directing groups and prefers to work one on one and behind the scenes. He's not a charismatic leader and doesn't have long-term vision.
The country clubber is a master networker and big-picture thinker. He may have a charming personality but has no idea how to nurture and motivate staff. He leaves that and other nitty-gritty tasks to others.
PsychTests' research showed that the leaders rated poor to average fell into one of two extremes: They focused too much on the performance and production side of leadership, the sports coach style, or they focused too much on the people side of leadership — the mentor style — to the detriment of both.
The other type the study discovered is the eclectic leader, who draws from all the leadership styles. How the leader acts depends on the situation and the staff.
This approach was rated as the best, based on these leaders' performance ratings.
So what is good leadership? It's not about muscle or might. It's not about title. It doesn't mean that your compassion for people or ambition to get things done overrides everything else.
The challenge, as rags-to-riches entrepreneur Jim Rohn said, is to know when “to be strong but not rude; be kind but not weak; be bold but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble but not timid; be proud but not arrogant; have humor without folly.”
And you have to do what you think is right at the time and not worry what others think. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you'll be criticized anyway.”
Career consultant Andrea Kay can be reached at email@example.com.
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