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?