I’m starting out the week with a different topic on style – leadership style.
This past weekend I thought quite a bit about leadership. My thoughts have been inspired by what is going on here in the US. I promise this is not a political blog. I’ve just been spending a lot of time watching the conventions and thinking about leadership.
I held leadership positions for most of my 35 year career. I led teams of people who directly reported to me and project teams where no-one directly reported to me. I continue to use leadership skills in my daily life – in my business, my volunteer work, my home life.
As I reflect back on my career, especially the last 20 years of leading major projects, I would say I was a pretty good leader. I usually completed projects on time, on budget, and on quality. Most people wanted to work on projects with me. Of course, not everyone liked me. I worked hard myself and, consequently, my expectations were high. However, I tried to focus on making sure everyone on my project felt valued, felt they were learning, and felt they had fun even though they worked long hours.
I’ve taken numerous leadership classes over the years. I’ll never forget one class I took early as a project manager. It was a class called Situational Leadership. I believe that class really helped me understand more about what it takes to be a good leader.
I’ll start by defining the 3 main leadership styles.
- Authoritarian (autocratic) – this is the command & control where the leader tells the team what to do & the team members do it.
- Democratic (participative) – the leader guides the team and participates in the team. The team provides input and the leader makes the decision or makes the decision with the group (consensus, voting, thumb up/down).
- Delegative – this pretty much is where the leader steps back and it is up to the team to make decisions.
If you’re interested, see here for additional explanation of the three styles.
Situational leadership believes that all three types of leadership styles can be good or bad depending on the situation. For instance, at the beginning of a project when you are on-boarding the team, it is the leader who understands what needs to get done. So, at this point, the leader may need to be more authoritarian, telling the members the vision, the plan, the timeline. the team members’ roles, etc.
Then as the project goes on, the leader will use more of a participative style and at times even delegate. Sometimes during a project, I would delegate leadership to a very good team member who had expertise in a certain area. Then, if a crisis arose, I would have to take on a more authoritarian style until the situation was under control.
I remember before 9/11 happened, NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani’s leadership rating was fairly low. He was seen as an authoritarian leader. Then when 9/11 occurred, people wanted a leader who could stand in front of them and take command. He was seen as a great leader at that time, not because his leadership style changed, but because the situation changed.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this and looking at the current situation and the current nominees. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 100 days.
Then I started to ask myself – is dictatorial a leadership style? If so, how is it different than authoritarian? When I googled “famous dictators”, I found this Famous Dictator List with Adolf Hitler as #1. Then I found this reference in Wikibooks that states:
When a leader is a dictator they feel better because they have control and power.
A dictator only cares about themselves. They don’t really care about the team members. They are angry and divisive. I would assume that most of them burn out, move on, or get overthrown by their own team.
A leader cares about their team. They do everything possible to bring the team along with them.
Now I am beginning to understand the key difference between a leader and a dictator.
A leader is all about the team.
A dictator is only about themselves.
I know many of you have leadership experience. I would love to hear your comments. What are your views on the difference styles of leadership? Am I right to say that a “dictator” is not a “leader”? This is not a stupid question!!!
Like I said at the beginning, this has been on my mind quite a bit now…
Have a wonderful week.
The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example – John Wooden