When we consider notable leaders – be they Winston Churchill or Steve Jobs – it quickly becomes apparent that there are as many different ways to lead people as there are leaders. With that in mind, various frameworks have been developed over the years which have sought to identify key attitudes and approaches.
One must appreciate and recognise the differences between leaders and managers. A manager’s job is to arrange and implement performance plans for a team, while a leader is there to encourage, support, inspire and generally lead from the front. The leader needs to carry out the more senior manager’s plan and help the team do the same.
As a leader, you must communicate with your team, as a lack of communication can make you seem distant and difficult to approach. Communication breeds trust, loyalty and a sense of togetherness that can only benefit the overall quality of the team’s output.
One school of thought is that leadership style is based on the leader’s assumptions, with two identified theories: Theory X and Theory Y.
Theory X believes that people have an inherent dislike of work and will do anything to avoid it. For a team to achieve its objectives, it needs to be closely controlled and supervised, leading to more of an autocratic style.
Theory Y instead has a more generous view of the average worker, suggesting people can gain satisfaction from their work. The leader should motivate their team by respect and recognition, resulting in a more consultative and inclusive leadership style.
The model tells us that your leadership style will be strongly influenced by what you believe motivates your team. If you think they dislike work, you’ll tend towards an authoritarian style. If you assume that your subordinates can take pride in doing a good job, then you’ll favour a more participative style.
Something rarely mentioned is that leadership is not always about knowing the perfect thing to say or do. Instead, true leadership is about showing up, connecting to others, and committing to a common purpose in a way that inspires. Leaders must be willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying or demonstrating the certain emotional vulnerability we are all facing in our new world.
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