A few weeks ago I attended a multi-day training session, along with roughly 20 other individuals from across our organization.
It was an honor because we were told we were handpicked from the more than 15,000 employees companywide for this training, because of our current value and future potential for the organization.
In preparation for the week-long session we had to complete several pre-work readings, develop case studies as well as solicit assessments of our personalities and leadership styles from a dozen or so individuals comprising ourselves, our respective bosses, peers and subordinates.
The most interesting aspect of the assessments I received was regarding my leadership style. I thought I was one type of a leader, but the 360-degree feedback from the people I work with told me something else.
Before I can explain this personal "ah-ha" moment, I need to share the six leadership styles as identified via the tools and assessments we used that week from the business consultancy firm, The Hay Group.
The Directive approach to leadership seeks to gain immediate compliance, relying on the use of "orders" rather than providing context and direction. While it's most useful during a crisis situation or managing an underperforming team, it is not a sustainable approach to managing people.
This "my way or the highway" philosophy may have been the norm in previous decades, it has clearly fallen out of favor in recent years. It's a short-term solution at best.
Conversely, this particular manner of leadership has the long view in mind. It relies on establishing a broader context to convey a bigger picture that's projected into the future.
Rather than ordering people when, how and what to do---the Visionary provides an authoritative perspective regarding the business' prospects, as well as why that perspective matters and how every individual can work towards making it a reality.
The trick here is that the leader must be able to clearly articulate the vision and demonstrate actions that are aligned with that message.
The Affiliative mode of leadership focuses on people and relationships with a primary goal of creating trust and harmony across the organization. A lot of attention is given to meeting the needs of the individuals without placing a priority on performance or results.
While some may balk at this approach, it's a necessary model to have available when team members are facing a personal crisis or there's a need to establish credibility, trust and alignment across groups.
For instance, I used to work at a telecommunications company and our chief labor negotiator with the unions at that time was very skilled with the Affiliative style of leadership. She was masterful at maintaining trust and harmony with that important constituency for the good of the organization.
The Participative approach to leadership seeks to engage others in the leadership process. A key objective of this style is to generate new ideas and solutions from a team using consensus and commitment.
It relies heavily on the concept that teams make better decisions than any individual. The key for this style to be effective is the leader needs to establish the appropriate context up front as well as processes, rules and boundaries to ensure everyone knows each other's roles.
Additionally, this model only works if the team members are competent and they understand the organizational vision.
Individuals who exhibit Pacesetting behaviors tend to have high performance standards and work hard to ensure those standards are met.
They also tend to lead by example; however, they can be reluctant to delegate or collaborate because of concerns that others won't finish tasks to the pacesetter's satisfaction.
This leadership style can be effective in small group settings, research teams or with a line-up of high-performance individuals who view the leader with respect---think professional athletics as an example.
But it's important to note that this particular leadership gear can seize up quickly if the pacesetter steps in too frequently and tries to do it all, which can slow progress, creativity and innovation.
Leaders who rely on the Coaching method strive to identify the unique strengthens and weaknesses of their team members with the end goal of helping those individuals develop the behaviors and skills to meet their professional objectives.
The "coach" seeks to identify developmental gaps, provides ongoing support and feedback with an eye on the individual's growth trajectory for future opportunities.
This tends to be one of the more effective leadership styles in the long term, yet it's also one of the most underutilized.
Critical factors to its implementation include a team or individuals who want to be "coached" as well as their implicit respect and trust of the coaching leader.
In my case, when I took my personal assessment the results for my perceived dominant leadership style was the Pacesetter model by a wide margin with no backup styles at all.
However, the results from the people I worked with who completed the evaluation found that my dominant leadership style was that of a Visionary with identical back-up ratings for both Coaching and Affiliative.
The main takeaway for me was that we might not be the best measure of our own leadership skills and gaps.
Leadership is a process that requires constant bi-directional feedback from everybody involved to ensure learning and progression occur.
Perhaps John F. Kennedy said it best, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."