01 March 2022

What Kind of Leader Are You?

"Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect."

--Theodore Parker

Leaders think differently.

About themselves, the organization, and the world around them. Thinking alike seldom contributes to anyone's success. How one develops personally and professionally benefits significantly by being distinctive. In the arc of life, it pays to be different.

Dissimilarity applies to ideas and people. "Leaders must bring together diverse ideas, which often means engaging with differing perspectives and those with diverse backgrounds." (Journal of Character & Leadership Development, Summer 2021)

When speaking about leaders, we're not necessarily equating that term with a position. However, untitled leaders are found throughout most structures.     

Leadership styles

Much that's written about leaders has to do with "style." For example, author, Joseph Garvey, reminds us of three from social psychologist Kurt Lewin:

  • Authoritarian Leadership (Autocratic). The leader dictates policies and procedures and decides what objectives must be completed. Again, control is a significant theme.
  • Participative Leadership (Democratic). Here the members participate in the decision-making process. As a result, team morale is higher, and members are more engaged. Unfortunately, this style is noted for an absence of clear communication.
  • Delegative Leadership (Laissez-Faire). Team members need more guidance from leaders and are free to make their own decisions. Tools are provided along with processes to make good decisions. Then, the groups solve problems on their own.
Max Weber and Bernard Bass add to the list of styles:
  • Transactional Leadership. This style focuses on the role of supervision, organization, and group performance. Employees perform well when there is an organization's transparent chain of command.
Professor Bass expands the work of James MacGregor Burns with another concept:
  • Transformational Leadership. This style enhances the motivation, morale, and performance of followers. The traits of transformational leaders are energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate. 
Styles can fluctuate depending on the circumstances, such as crises or restructuring. Nevertheless, they generally return to a predominant pattern of behaving.  

Leaders' personalities have a direct impact on behavior and corporate culture. Attributes such as integrity, courage, maturity, and caring for others have been found to support and promote strong executive and managerial effectiveness. (European Scientific Journal, July 2016) 

Being self-aware is the secret to better decision-making.

(C)  Mark Sanborn

Program evaluation

The Training Industry Report estimates that approximately $70 billion is spent annually on helping individuals to learn, grow, and change. With such a large expenditure of time and money, why do so many programs come up short?  

Areas of deficiency:

No long-term measures prove the permanency of training (Kivland and King, University of Illinois); lack of support from upper management; decoupling reflection from real work situations (Gurdjian, Halbeisen, and Lane; McKinsey & Company); and the absence of interest on the part of employees. (Panopto, Inc.) 

Where programs may need greater emphasis:

By taking a more deeply person-centered approach the cultivation of character can help leaders to successfully engage the opportunities and challenges of leadership in our complex and uncertain times.

Intellectual virtues, such as truth and understanding, are what we need for good thinking across situations combined with moral virtues which are at the heart of a well-lived life. (Edward Brooks, University of Oxford) 

Full disclosure 

Where does the burden of learning rest? Mainly with the participants. Here's why:

1. You are ultimately responsible for your own development. Even if you attend corporate-sponsored programs with instructors, and relevant courses, in off-site settings, the application and practice are up to you. The pursuit of knowledge is a personal decision.

2. There's a need to acquire clarity on who you are. "The number one issue in leadership today is a failure of nerve to define oneself more clearly," wrote Edwin Friedman. He says, "Self-differentiation is the ability to be in charge of self, even when others are actually trying to make a person different from how the person really is." 

Styles don't exist on their own. They emanate from who we are or are emulations. Family backgrounds have some say about who a leader is, how they relate to colleagues, and how they conduct themselves on the job.

Remember, to be true to yourself, you must know who you are. 

3. Leading means taking personal responsibility for your actions. "Freedom and responsibility--two faces of a single coin--are philosophical and theological, even political concepts but not really scientific ones. And before you can use them, they must be clear to you," offers Dr. Peter Koestenbaum. 

4. Are you willing to follow? "He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander," said Aristotle. 

5.  Seventy percent of leadership development requires the right kind of experience. We sometimes need guidance to learn what good experiences are. Our life has the potential to become a deep well of past performance, good and bad. What do we take away from those experiences? That's what counts.

What makes up the 30 percent?  

Teachers. Networking. Peer learning. Reading. Continuing education. Colleagues and trusted friends. 

Employees don't work for an organization; they work for a supervisor. Having someone to properly observe us, help interpret our experiences, and offer wisdom about life is invaluable. A supervisor with the right temperament can be one of the best things that happen early in one's career. Retention begins here.

And good mental health results from these kinds of personal, not remote, interactions with colleagues.  

Regardless, raising the level of maturity in associates, which is what mentoring is about, is a gift that keeps on giving.  


An extensive study of millennials (1980-1996) by Gallup gives us a closer look at a cohort that will be 40 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2025. (U.S. Department of Labor)

What are those findings? Here are four:

--Millennials don't just want a paycheck; they want a purpose.

--Millennials are not pursuing job satisfaction; they are pursuing development.

--Millennials don't want bosses; they want coaches.

--Millennials don't want annual reviews; they want ongoing conversations.

Millennials differ significantly from their older counterparts, especially when it comes to using mobile technology. Yet, Gallup finds that millennials have plenty in common with Gen-Xers, baby boomers, and traditionalists. 

Demographic labels aside, there remain shared generational values plus the enduring nature of human need, including the honor and dignity that come with self-respect.


© Bredholt & Co.