Project Management

You Got to Have Style!

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Throughout the years of running a PMO, I have come to learn that “your team is what you are made of”. There are various styles of leadership, and different people are attracted to and inclined towards certain leadership styles. In my opinion, there won't be one-size-fits-all or so called 'best style' of leadership. The leadership style that will be most effective really depends on the environment you are in and the things you want to achieve. In other words, it is situational rather than personal as advocated by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in their famous “Situational Leadership Theory”. This theory assumes that different situations call for different characteristics, and accordingly, no single optimal psychographic profile of a leader exists.

On the other hand, the kind of talents that you can attract to your team is very much dependent on the leadership style you display - just like bees to honey while flies to dung. This explains why companies like Apple Inc., while remained boring and nearly out of the competition for a decade, still managed to make a great comeback when Steve Jobs returned in 1997 attracting and establishing a legion of creative talents in his core team, which includes Tim Cook, Jonathan Ive, Ron Johnson and Scott Forstall, that are responsible for Apple’s bleeding-edge products like iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Try looking around and I am sure you will find a lot more similar examples that go with the old saying – “birds of a feather flock together”.

Now, let’s get back to the topic on leadership styles. Over the past century, researchers have developed a lot of theories and frameworks attempting to understand and classify different styles of leadership. An article from Mind Tool – “Leadership Styles: Using the Right One for the Situation”, provides a good compilation of the 10 most commonly employed leadership styles. The article also suggested that there is no so called ‘the best’ leadership style. A more pragmatic approach will be for the leader to know how to apply the right style, or a mixture of styles, for the right situation. Nevertheless, it is a good starting point for you to explore what are the leadership styles available and which of them fits into your personality and immediate situation.

If this is not enough to convince you, I’ve recently stumbled across a rather unique book “As One: Individual Action, Collective Power”, by Mehrdad Baghai and James H. Quigley, based on the “As One” project initiated by Deloitte to study effective collaborations. The project has discovered that there are many modes of collaboration ‘As One’ behavior and that all are effective in certain contexts resulting in the definition of eight archetypes of leaders and followers: Landlord & Tenants, Community Organizer & Volunteers, Conductor & Orchestra, Producer & Creative Team, General & Soldiers, Architect & Builders, Captain & Sports Team, and Senator & Citizens. In other words, it reinforces the notion that there is no one-size-fits-all leadership style. The approach taken in the project started with reviewing hundreds of perspectives on collective action taken from a variety of academic disciplines, including science, economics and psychology, and pulling together 60 detailed case studies to analyze successful collaborative efforts, asking a set of questions for more than 100 factors about those organizations, such as their structure, systems and processes, leadership, and how they communicate. There is a companion “As One” website set up for this project. For those of you who would like to discover a little bit more about your style of leadership, I encourage you to try out their online Archetypes Classifier to find the archetype in you and which is the most suitable mode of collaboration that best fits your situation. Remember this for your next project – ‘while your team is what you are made of, the situation determines who you should be’.

So now, what’s your style?

Posted on: March 27, 2011 02:42 PM | Permalink

Comments (21)

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Interesting challenge. I will post a comment pre assessment and one after assessment.
Currently, I apply on a constant base three types of leadership. Coaching for fresh engineers and students, delegation for senior engineers, and democratic for engineers with a good level of self confidence. I do not apply the styles because they are at a certain career level, but because we agree to do so before we start working together. I use to give them the option to choose the way their work will be led by me. I had situations when senior engineers expressed their wish not to contribute to project strategy at all. They basically push for pace setting, a style which I don't like at all. To answer your question, I prefer and apply the first three types. And the one I prefer the most is the democratic style due to the fact that gives me enough level of involvement and control in the projects, and stimulates creativity from the other end. I will let you know what it comes from the online assessment.

It was quite quick and the result was Producer&Creative Team.


We belong to the same style ;-)

Cristian, Wai Mun, I came out as Producer & Creative Team as well! I wonder if this is typical of project managers and their teams in general.

My assessment result was Conductor & Orchestra.

The Conductor & Orchestra pairing is based on highly scripted and clearly defined roles that focus on precision and efficiency in execution as defined by the conductor. The orchestra members, who have similar backgrounds, need to be fully trained to comply with the requirements of the job, and, therefore, must be carefully selected to ensure they fit the strict culture
and scripted tasks. Belonging to the orchestra provides members with the best way to make a living while focusing on tasks at which they excel.

Elizabeth, you could be right that in a project team, the project manager and team members relationship may resemble that model of Producer & Creative Team as most project managers need to manage a pool of talents, have clear objectives of what to be achieved and need input and contribution from others in the team to make things happen. But I am interested to find out the results from other project leads/managers who have tried it and post their results in this section so that we can have a quick compilation on what are the typical dominant styles for most project managers. I am sure you guys will be interested to know too.

i got producer & creative team .. is it the best group? :)

To be honest, I would ignore the test in itself. There are only a few questions and this provides a bad resolution. What I find very interesting is the opportunity to go through the explanations for each category and analyse your activity against them. Is important to split your analysis in two: what are you doing at the moment and what would you like to actually do. If there is a gap then you can use it to generate a change plan for your behaviour.

Wai Mun: Great piece, on the importance of developing one's own individual leadership style rather than blindly aping great leaders.
As a graduate of PMI's Leadership Institute Master Class (LIMC) and keen follower of Leadership myself, I have read a lot on the topic.
Great leaders cannot do much with a mediocre team, and even great teams can fail unless they have a good leader.
Do keep contributing to enrich our community here!

Great article and thanks for sharing.

Interesting article

Leadership style should be able to adapt to the team’s needs and sets a beneficial balance for the whole organization.
The site you mentioned doesn't seem to be working.

Good one. Thanks for sharing

Truly said. Excellent article on different versions of leadership.
Thanks a lot!!

Truly said. Excellent article on different versions of leadership.
Thanks a lot!!

Truly said. Excellent article on different versions of leadership.
Thanks a lot!!

I look for various ways to support others to take advantage of their enormous potential, to overcome them.
Thanks for the thought

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