I’m sure you’ve come across lots of different leaders in your life, some of them good, others not so good.
Spend a few moments now thinking of two leaders that you have known. First, think of a great leader. What was he, or she like? What made them great?
Now, think of a bad leader that you have come across. Why were they bad? What did they do? What made them different to the first leader you thought about?
Now if you try and stand aside, looking at your two examples, you will notice that in both cases leadership is about influence. (no mater if positive or negative one)
A leader is somebody who can sway other people’s opinions and behaviors. A manager may have a title, but a leader has the influence.
The second important element of leadership is that it occurs between a leader, and a follower or a set of followers. If the influencing process occurs amongst peers, then it is a team process, rather than leadership.
The last point is that leadership is not just about who or what the leader is. Leadership is definitely based on these things, but it also depends on how the followers perceive the leader.
For example, if they perceive the leader more as a friend than as a position of power, then they may be less influenced by what the leader says or does.
Leadership also depends on the context. You’re more likely to be influenced by the leader when there’s a crisis happening, and you’re in a state of flux, though when you’re in control and know exactly what to do.
So, all of these things contribute to the degree of influence in the leadership process.
Now that we know a little bit more about what leadership is, we can start to explore the different types of leadership.
The first differentiation is one that I hinted at earlier when we talked about the difference between leaders and managers.
And this is the difference between formal, and informal leaders.
A formal leader is the person who has the title of being the leader of your group. This might be your boss, the CEO of your company, or the leader of your country. Everybody knows that this person is the leader because they occupy a formal position.
An informal leader is somebody who doesn’t have a formal position, but who still engages in an influencing process with followers. For example, Martin Luther King didn’t have a formal leadership position, but he had significant influence over his followers. The same can be said of Mahatma Ghandi and Malala, and others.
A CEO recently told me that one of the key leaders in his organisation was the receptionist. Her followers were the customers, and potential sponsors of the organisation who talked to her on a regular basis, and she had tremendous influence over them.
So, the message here is that you do not have to have a title to be a leader.
The last differentiation I want to make between different types of leadership is whether the leadership comes from the front, or from behind.
When we think of a leader, we tend to think of a Martin Luther King type – a charismatic person standing on a pedestal, and inspiring us to follow them wherever they go.
This is what we call charismatic, or transformational leadership.
However, there’s another type of leadership that we’re beginning to recognize, and that is called servant leadership. In this type, the leader supports the followers from behind. They nurture, defend, and empower their followers, so that they are simply the first among equals, rather than being the person at the front.
Their motto is that the needs of others come first.
Neither of these types are superior to the other, generally. They are simply different types that maybe more relevant to some people, and some cultures, than others.
OK, but how does leaders emerge?
A key thing to note is that leader emergence is very different to leader effectiveness. You might feel like a leader, and everybody else may look to you to be
the leader, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a good leader.
Think about how you would answer the following questions:
If you answer with “yes” to them, then you have a strong leader identity.
If you answered maybe, or no, then chances are you don’t see yourself as a leader and you have a weak leader identity.
Research has shown that the more a person believes him or her self to be a leader, the more likely it is that they will take on experiences that develop their skills and that grow their leadership potential.
Whether you see yourself as a leader or not, depends on how your view of yourself matches up against your view of what a leader should be.
Remember earlier, when you thought about a good leader? If your view of yourself matches your view of a good leader, then chances are you’ll have a strong leader identity and you’ll actually become a leader.
Then, if other people see your behaviors, and these behaviors match what they think a leader should be, then they will act as though you are a leader, reinforcing your own sense of leader identity.
So, let’s take three examples:
Jay thinks that all leaders are extroverted. But because he is introverted he thinks that he couldn’t possibly be a leader, and he therefore has a weak leader identity.
Kay is introverted as well. But she realizes that although many leaders are extroverted, there are some good leaders who aren’t, and who are introverted instead. And when she compares herself against what she sees as a good leader, she thinks that they match. Her colleagues also think of her as the leader, even though she is quiet. So she tries out her leadership more and more.
Ellen, on the other hand, is extroverted, and this matches her view of leaders, so she has a strong leader identity. However, her colleagues see her as domineering, and
this does not match their view of what a leader should be like. So, they ignore her attempts to engage in leadership.
Kay is the only one of the three who will emerge as a leader in the long run.
So when it comes to leader emergence, the most important thing is your leadership schema, or what you think a leader should be like. If you think that who you are matches your leadership schema, then you’ll have a strong leader identity. If your behaviors match other people’s schemas, then they are more likely to let you start becoming a leader.
So think about your own leadership schema, and the schema of those around you. Understand it, challenge it, but most of all think about how it is affecting your leadership, and the leadership of those around you.
So, What makes an effective leader?
Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this, otherwise we’d be surrounded by fantastic leaders.
I’m not saying it will always be the best form of leadership, but the research evidence is strong and robust. So we know that it often works.
Full range leadership theory suggests that there are two basic types of leadership – transactional leadership and transformational leadership.
- Transactional leadership is the basic form of leadership, and it’s based on an exchange relationship between the leader and the follower. Essentially, if the follower works hard, then the leader provides a reward. If they don’t, then they’re punished.
Transactional leadership works best when the leader provides clear instructions and enough resources to do the work.
When there are rewards contingent on the behavior, and when the leader actively monitors the performance to make sure that any errors or reduced performance is caught at the right time.
Other theories call this type of leadership – Task-oriented leadership – where the focus of the leader is at the task in hand and how it could be improved, optimized, completed in the best possible way.
Now, transactional leadership tends to get a bit of a bad rap, but actually this is a fundamental part of leading. An effective leader is somebody who does all of these things.
- So what is transformational leadership?
Well, once you’ve got the basics down, and people know what they’re doing, and they’re reinforced for doing the correct behaviors through transactional
leadership, then we can start to motivate them through other means. Transformational leadership is comprised of four elements, or
what we call the four “I”s:
- Individualized consideration – it is about knowing who your followers are as individuals, and developing their skills and knowledge.
- Intellectual stimulation – means that you’re challenging your followers, giving them difficult and complex tasks, and encouraging creativity and innovation.
- Inspirational motivation – is about setting a vision and linking that to the day to day goals of the group. And about being optimistic and enthusiastic.
- Idealized influence – which was originally called charisma and involves standing up for what you believe in, discussing your values and your ethical stances.
Some theories call this the “People-oriented leadership” – where the focus of the leader is at people, their abilities, potential, motivation and success
In summary, leader effectiveness is about both managing people and inspiring them.
Followers need to know what to do, and have the resources to complete the task. But to be a great leader, you also need to transform people so that they want to do the work.
It’s not easy but it’ll certainly pay off for you.