Hopefully the irony of the title “follow me I am right behind you” is not lost on those that have experienced leaders in the workplace both good and bad. Needless to say, we witness good leaders that have the seemingly innate ability to influence ours and others, thoughts, behaviours and actions. We enthusiastically rally behind their vision, beliefs & passion for the cause and followers feel enthused and energetic – sometimes regardless of the consequences.
That aside bad leaders can seriously derail an organisation, create severe ructions, instigate upheaval and divisions within groups and individuals.
Its all about Communication
Leadership, like with most other things at work, is fundamentally an interpersonal skill. However, leadership today is a difficult art partly due to the shape and methods of electronic communication and the pace of change, that can create an illusion of control and huge expectations from the followers. Interestingly the psychological research into leadership suggests that there is no perfect personality or ideal indicator of leadership effectiveness or style. However, to begin to look at the performance of the work group and the organisation is probably a good place to start. The style or personality of the leader that fits the situation or context is likely to prove to be most successful. Though, leadership is an adaptation to the environment, how the temperature changes within the group and a measure of the prevailing economic climate. Thus the art of good leadership, with the help of psychology, can support those with the power to change the business and support people with well researched and evidenced-based models to reflect and utilise.
Leadership in theory
As you would expect, psychology has a great deal to say about leadership, leadership styles and models to enthuse and motivate followers. The cynics amongst us suggest that focussing upon upper levels of leadership & management may be due to the fact they are the groups that pay the consultants bills, and that there is no money in supporting the oi palloi on the shop floor? However, by taking this perspective we may be missing the rafts of workers that are great “informal” leaders. These people without the formal power to “lead” but have the ability to rally people through charismatic & insightful means. I am sure we can all remember or know people like this? So with this knowledge in mind what makes a good leader? Informal leadership without power is one thing – but what are the potential methods of leadership that may help those with the formal power to lead?
Here are some of the styles of leadership from psychology:-
- The Authoritarian leader
- Transactional leadership
- Delegative leader
- Authentic leader
- Transformational leader
- Laissez-faire leadership
- Situational leadership
Are you a leader?
Of course looking through the reams of material on leadership and the disparate styles, personalities etc may leave a reader in a spin thinking well what’s best for me, the team and my business? Clearly, leadership is partly in the eye of the beholder, we all see leaders differently both good and bad. Moreover, we may be inclined to overestimate the impact of the leader particularly when performance is either good or bad. Generally, employees take the credit when things go well and the leader gets panned when things don’t go so well. One style of leadership or personality type will not make you a great leader and perhaps we need to focus our attention on how the leader is perceived rather than allowing us just look at the leader?
So whatever leadership course you may have been on, model or theory you subscribe to, perhaps the place to start to measure leadership is business performance, group/team satisfaction, the understanding of the vision of the business and if the workforce believes in the leader? Perhaps inverting the organisational triangle to focus our attention upon those being lead will provide the organisation with the insight necessary for the leadership team to evolve and adapt styles to the context and prevailing environment.
So as with most things in life leadership is a compromise of styles, personality and no one size fits all. Create your vision, have belief and courage in your convictions but don’t forget the context and people you work with to make the most of leading your business to success and prosperity.