As a leader I have encountered a diverse number of leaders each characterizing certain leadership styles. Some of these smokeandmirrorsleaders have been effective, some not so effective, and some have been extraordinary. What type of leaders have I encountered? Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Gung-ho” leaders who lead zealously and are overly enthusiastic
  • All about me” leaders who are domineering and controlling
  • Do like me” leaders who expect followers to do it their way and no other  way
  • Not me” leaders who are reluctant to step up and lead
  • Laissez-faire” leaders who have no vision and mission and allow confusion and chaos to reign
  • Take all the credit” leaders who selfishly accept recognition for the work of others
  • It is not my problem” leaders who pass the buck and fail to accept responsibility
  • I care for you” leaders who spend all their time focusing on caring for, supporting, and nurturing others to the detriment of achieving results
  • Entitled” leaders who see themselves as the anointed ones
  • Please like me” leaders who seek the approval of all and do not want to upset anyone

There are other leadership styles not listed and I am sure that you could add many more to the list. As I wrote the list I initially thought of the leaders who were not so effective and did not exemplify particularly good leadership. These leaders consistently utilized only one style and used it exclusively to lead or in most cases, not really lead. However, when I revisited the list and envisioned specific leaders I worked with, I realized that the more effective leaders, the extraordinary leaders, were leaders who demonstrated an assortment of character styles, attributes, and actions to lead. I would call these leaders cocktail leaders, leaders who blend, combine, and brew an effective leadership concoction.

Upon reflection therefore, perhaps this list is not too bad. I must confess that I have at one time or another displayed each of these leadership styles and have utilized a number of actions and strategies to lead. I have learned through many struggles, trials, failures, and some success that there is not one single way to lead others and that leadership is convoluted, it’s complex, it’s messy and it’s situational. Leading others requires many ingredients to obtain success. There is not one magic ingredient to “stir a successful drink.” 

Greg Ogden in Leadership Essentials states that successful leadership is not defined by displaying a certain leadership style or way. He proposes that influence is the basic ingredient to effective leadership. Ogden defines effective leadership as “gathering individuals and teams around a common mission or vision in order to combine their gifts to accomplish something bigger than they could do on their own.” Ogden’s definition of effective leadership succinctly summarizes the primary ingredients to multiply influence and lead. It is about teaming up with others and utilizing the strengths and talents to collectively tackle a task, an assignment, a project or idea and do this in community. When I reflect back on the most effective leaders I had the good fortune of working with, they:

  • Personified team
  • Honoured and respected team members
  • Affirmed and utilized the strengths of the team members
  • Shared responsibility and tasks
  • Defined their vision
  • Were flexible
  • Displayed humility
  • Extended trust

These leaders did this not with a certain style in mind and the outcomes they achieved did in fact multiply influence. In fact, these extraordinary leaders used a collection of personal ingredients to brew a successful leadership cocktail. A drink that everyone contributed to and could enjoy.

What other leadership styles have you encountered in your leadership journey? What are other attributes that you could add to describe extraordinary leaders?

Claudio Morelli
Claudio is a retired Superintendent/CEO of the Burnaby School District in British Columbia and the Wellspring Academy Advisor for the Wellspring Foundation for Education in Kigali Rwanda. As a parent, as an experienced facilitator and educator for over 30 plus years, he uses his personal and professional learning and experience to enhance and extend trust by demonstrating authenticity, integrity and caring in all relationships. Claudio is dedicated to service, leadership and building community. Visit Claudio's blog Building Servant Hearts at www.buildingservanthearts and on Twitter @CDMorelli.
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