Photo by Pixabay.
Photo by Pixabay.

What's your leadership style?

We live in an age of abundance.  We have more resources accessible to us than ever before.  Where previously knowledge and education were only for a select few, now everyone has access to ivy league universities and online libraries. Want to know how to do anything?  Just Google it.

With the internet and industrialization, everyone, even in remote African villages, has access to most goods and services.   Want it?  Order it on Amazon.  With the rise of green energy and renewable resources, the scarcity of fossil fuel energy sources suddenly poses less of a threat.

Yet, leadership is still only accessible to the top 1% of most organizations. Even though the drive for autonomous teams is on the increase.

Where during the industrial revolution the focus was on making resources accessible to everyone, in the information revolution and the age of knowledge workers, leadership is the resource we need to develop and make more accessible. The evolution of leadership styles reflects this need.

What’s your colour?

In his groundbreaking book called Reinventing Organizations, Frederic Laloux compared the development of organizations to childhood development. Each new paradigm of organizational growth is associated with a specific colour and requires a different leadership style.  At the lowest end of the spectrum is the oldest magic magenta and impulsive red paradigms, where organizations were tribal and the survival of a group was a result of its leader.

image of organizational development

Organizations operating from a red paradigm are typically driven by fear and can be compared to a mafia gang.  The following stages of organizational development, as it progresses through amber, orange, green and finally teal, each add certain valuable characteristics to organizational development, and with that changes to leadership styles.

The preceding paradigm is not worse than the following, just like a toddler is not better than an infant.  It is merely different stages of development, each adding something unique and even necessary.

Orange, for example, adds the repeatability of processes and roles and introduces meritocracy, where leadership is no longer associated with royalty, but with skill and worthiness.  Teal, the most evolved or mature organization, has a leadership style with shared decision-making and coaching rather than the authoritarian style of a red organization.  For the organization to evolve, the leadership style needs to evolve.

Comparing different leadership styles

Just like each organizational development style brings different benefits to an organization, each requires a different leadership style.  The one is not better than the next, it is just more suitable as the primary leadership style in the organization.  A good leader, however, can switch between any of these leadership styles.

There are many different types of leadership styles and a Google search reveals more styles than what can be included in one post, many of them very similar.  This post focuses mainly on three of these styles.

Authoritarian leadership


The Authoritarian Leadership style. Familiar to many of us in larger organizations. It is characterized by close supervision, control, and a lack of input from the team.  This style of leadership is suitable for amber organizations.  Transactional leadership.  This is the typical micro-manager style. It is closely associated with this leadership style and is more suitable in an organization operating from an orange paradigm.  Here power is closely controlled by the main decision-maker or CEO. Information flows downstream only on a need-to-know basis.  The keywords for this style of leadership are dictator, strict, and rigid.

Servant leadership

Servant Leadership, compared to Authoritarian Leadership, introduces more freedom and distributed decision-making.   This leadership style allows people to make decisions and self-organize — two very necessary ingredients for autonomous teams.  The keywords for this type of leadership are humble, caring and trustworthy.

Servant Leadership essentially focuses on solving problems and removing stumbling blocks to help the team be more productive. It’s about protection.

This leadership style can be compared to nurturing the golden goose, creating an optimum environment for the goose to lay its golden eggs. The golden goose (or rather geese) are the team members. The people who actively build and put into reality what is dreamed up by Business and Marketing.

Compared to all the other leadership styles, this style is about service and helping the team.  It is focused on the followers.

Transformational leadership

Transformational Leadership, however, doesn’t merely nurture the golden goose, it is a breeding farm producing golden geese. This leadership style focuses on developing problem solvers,  not merely solving problems.  This evolutionary style of leadership makes leadership accessible to everyone.

Transformational leaders create more leaders.

There are many similarities between Servant Leadership and Transformational Leadership. Both these leadership styles put the needs of others ahead of their own and both share decision-making power, which is necessary for organizations operating from a green and teal paradigm.

The main difference between these two leadership styles is the focus of the leader. The Servant Leader’s primary focus is on his followers whereas the Transformational Leader’s primary focus is on the organization. Where the Servant Leader makes sure that the followers can do their job, the Transformational Leader focuses on bringing out the best in each follower.

Transformational Leaders help followers grow, while Servant Leaders simply remove barriers to growth, without intentionally influencing the growth of the individual.

Benefits of Transformational Leadership

Each leadership style has benefits and each is valuable in a given situation. The leader must discern which style to use in a specific situation.  Transformational Leadership, characterized by passion and inspiration, includes the following benefits:

1. Influence behaviour

Whereas with Authoritarian Leadership change is extrinsically motivated, such as monetary bonuses, gifts and other carrot-and-stick methods of motivation, making it a short-lived resource, Transformational Leadership uses intrinsic motivators to inspire change.

The leader never tells the people what to do, rather, they offer to do things for the leader because the leader inspires them so much that they want to serve them and want to help them reach their goals.

It’s obvious why this is an extremely useful leadership style to develop as it frees up the leader from being the strict parent to the visionary and enabler.

2. More sustainable change

More change initiatives fail than not. Fact.

The reason why it fails is that in an authoritarian (or transactional) leadership style environment, people will obey the rules enforced on them. Not necessarily because they believe in it, but because it will keep them safe from harm (such as getting fired). The moment the change initiative is over though, or less focus is placed on it, people tend to quickly return to their old patterns and behaviours.

With Transformational Leadership, however, the change is sustainable as the leader motivates the employees to do things simply because it’s the right thing to do, with the focus on a cause bigger than one person. By empowering people to make decisions and putting a decision-making process in place, they end up making decisions that are best for their team and the organization as a whole, as the focus is always an evolutionary vision or purpose, closely associated with organizations operating from a teal paradigm.

3. Empowered teams exceed expectations

Transformational leadership, with its inherent capacity to empower teams, serves as a primary catalyst for team members to excel. Instead of requiring supervision, these highly motivated individuals leave the leader free to strategize and focus on expansion, no longer burdened by the need to manage resources. This proactive approach ultimately sets the team up to surpass expectations.

At the core of human nature, people yearn to be acknowledged as proficient. In certain work cultures, this recognition comes at the expense of others, painting them in a negative light to make oneself appear superior – a strategy that hardly ever pays off. On the other hand, in a more progressive and mature work culture, individuals willingly go above and beyond to solve problems, driven by the potential to stand out.

As we transition to a team where everyone is encouraged to be their best self, while striving towards a common goal, the outcome is remarkable. The collective success achieved through this team-oriented approach considerably outshines what a single individual’s concept of success could ever yield.

The need for leadership

Today, more than ever before, we need to make leadership more accessible.  No longer can companies afford to spend their most expensive resources managing other resources, ultimately slowing down the productivity of the entire organization.  To stay ahead of the competition, you need to create more leaders.

Leadership is about ownership.  It’s about responsibility. Also, it’s about building trust and earning respect.

It’s about being the best version that you can b. Whether you are a parent, a postman, or the CEO of a large corporation.  What is your leadership style?

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