There is a vast array of leadership styles, which result from a myriad of leader values and attributes. The relationships between these aspects of leading define leaders within their respective context. The following four types of leaders are described comparatively as a means of highlighting the importance of viewing leader effectiveness in the context of specific leadership roles, vice against collective assumptions regarding successful leadership. For the purposes of this composition, leadership is considered the power or ability to lead a group.
Lead through example. The Captain.
This leader embodies team spirit and provides a great example of the personal qualities which are agreeably desired by the group. These qualities typically equate to success and warrant moral applause. Although considered a leader, this individual is as much a member of the group as any other. With a talent for recognizing values and deficits of group members this leader may directly train or instruct group members and is actively engaged. Often, this leader sincerely wants members of the group to improve and ultimately aspires for group success. This leader is competent with tasks and confident in purpose; by doing well, others conspire to contribute and succeed. Concerning these types of leaders you will often hear versions of the following expressions: “She gets her hands dirty,” “He’s always the first one on the field and the last one off,” and “She motivates me.” The Captain displays relatability, emotion congruent to context, empathy, drive, determination, will, assertiveness, composure, and compassion.
Lead through knowledge or expertise. The Brain.
This type of leader is a subject matter expert who inspires others toward accomplishment, purpose, or knowledge. This leader is rational, efficient, and intelligent. As a part of a group this individual provides insight and inherently gives the group an advantage. It is helpful to be relatable; however, relatability is not a requirement as long as others can see the value in this person as a part of the group. Often this person is simply good at what they do. They may be perceived by others as “cutting edge” or “leading the way.” This leader remains future-oriented and ahead of the curve. Their contribution is not only beneficial to the group but frequently bears regional or global implications. Members of the group may believe this leader is irreplaceable. Furthermore, this type of leader may or may not be humble or even seen or heard. This leader leads by accomplishment and through setting standards for others. Thus it is this person’s contribution which warrants the individual’s status. This type of leader includes both thought leaders and innovators, with the essence of this leader being influence.
Lead through management. The Manager.
This leader makes you want to be great, foremost, by providing opportunity. The Manager conceptualizes the group’s goals, and, though not necessarily possessing the skills to accomplish the tasks of the group, provides group members adequate time, resources, and compensation or incentive. Relatability is helpful but not necessary, though it is essential for this leader to remain pragmatic and their ideas and actions justifiable. This leader can effectively lead from the front or the rear and may use a top-down or bottom-up approach. Regardless of the method, the key component is maintaining a harmonious atmosphere, where individuals are not simply told what to do, but are given standards which they perform against. This leader may perform routine and impartial evaluations as well as compensate individuals in accordance with prescribed policy. This leader doesn’t necessarily have to care about each individual on a personal level, but must understand group member’s concerns regarding their respective role within the group. This leader does not have to be seen or heard as long as agreeable responsive actions transcend. The Manager is successful through organizational skills, structure, delegation, and the fair and equal balance of reward and punishment. Ultimately, this leader is respected, trusted, and viewed as preserving equilibrium.
Lead through leading. The One.
This category is reserved for those individuals who seem to be born to lead. The key component of this leader is balance. If the individual members of a group, relatively equal in all other functionality (e.g. skill, knowledge, and motivation), were stranded on a desolate island, this individual would emerge as the leader. This leader is charismatic, confident, empathetic, humble, and possesses a firm but relatable command presence. This leader may be modestly physically attractive and is generally able to balance: compassion and authority, structure and freedom, communication and isolation, needs and wants, emotion and logic, resources and crutches, personal achievement and motivating others, leading from the front and leading from the rear as well as with consistency and flexibility. This leader is thoughtful and prepared; preventative, yet reacts well under pressure and catastrophe. It is not necessary for this leader to coerce or obligate the group; this person, despite being otherwise equal and despite being flawed, is accepted as the best person to lead…the one.
In closing, imagine the settings where these leaders may emerge. From your experiences, identify the personalities and qualities of the individuals occupying these roles and begin to consider the contrasts. Though we are not all considered leaders by others or ourselves, we often lead in some manner based on the roles we play. Contemplate the roles you play and what it would take to be a leader in those roles. Then ask yourself, “Am I a leader?” If the answer is yes, I encourage you to share what it is that makes you a leader in the comments below.
Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.