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Lighting the Torch of Leadership

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Lighting the Torch of Leadership

What kind of leader are you? I know, it's hard to answer. In fact, from Vince Lombardi and Gandhi to Steven Spielberg and Elon Musk, I can tell you there are as many different ways to lead as there are leaders.

We all lead in different ways, and different circumstances call for different leadership styles. But as we strive to grow as leaders, it's important we remember to “pay it forward." Because regardless of style, your actions as a leader will create a ripple effect – like a wake from a boat – on everyone around you.

Types of Leadership

I've found a distinct, useful framework that explains various ways in which people lead. (Many others exist; I just happen to like this one best.) Understanding them is the first step toward developing your own leadership style and becoming a more effective leader. The best leaders find a unique blend of these styles and continue to adapt based on the situations they face.

Emotional Leadership Styles

Authors Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee explained these six emotional leadership styles in their 2002 book, Primal Leadership:

  • Visionary: “Visionary leaders articulate where a group is going, but not how it will get there—setting people free to innovate, experiment, take calculated risks,” writes Goleman and his co-authors. This abstract style is well-suited during large-scale organizational shifts.
  • Coaching: This one-on-one style works “with employees who show initiative and want more professional development,” writes Goleman. The downside is that it sometimes can be seen as micromanaging.
  • Affiliative: This teamwork-oriented style is valuable “when trying to heighten team harmony, increase morale, improve communication or repair broken trust in an organization,” writes Goleman. If overused, however, its group emphasis might foster individual mediocrity.
  • Democratic: When the collective wisdom of the group would be beneficial, this consensus-building style is effective. But it can backfire when quick decisions are necessary.
  • Pacesetting: This high-bar style requires everyone to do things better and faster. It can garner quick results, but it can also make people feel like failures. Goleman writes, “Our data show that, more often than not, pacesetting poisons the climate.”
  • Commanding: This militant style emphasizes criticism over praise, which can harm morale. Goleman states it’s only effective in a crisis when an urgent turnaround is needed.

Personal Growth

I know that even when I discover something that works well with my team, I can't rest because another important quality in highly effective leadership is continuous growth. Sometimes, growth happens quickly in the form of a breakthrough development. More often, however, it occurs in incremental improvements over time, in small ways every day. So where does this learning and growth come from? The quick answer is a number of places. I find it most often when I keep my mouth shut and my ears open.

If we strive to better ourselves as leaders and encourage our colleagues to do the same, we'll make a significant positive impact on our organizations. We’ll also foster a culture of teamwork, collaboration and positivity.

If you’re looking for a more specific place to find areas of potential growth, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How am I helping others achieve success?
  • Am I someone others want to emulate?
  • Am I leading how I would like to be led?
  • What can I do tomorrow to be a more effective leader than I am today?

This type of reflection can lead to growth and increase our likelihood of success as leaders and for our organizations.

Paying it Forward

In general, leadership has nothing to do with our needs and everything to do with the needs of the people and organizations we’re leading. So if we truly want to make a difference, we should pay it forward.

A great way to test whether you pay it forward is to think back to the last time someone brought you a problem. Did you hand him or her the answer? Or did you ask questions to spur critical thinking and allow the person to find their own solution and own it? Something this simple is a gift that will serve a lifetime.

And even though some of us may not have the title or position of “leader,” we all have an opportunity to lead and mentor others. It’s simply a matter of becoming adept at knowing what to look for in others and being willing to take chances with them. How many of us were 100-percent prepared for the positions we’ve assumed in our careers? Someone was willing to take a chance with us.

So, as you're sailing through your career, what kind of “wake” will you leave behind?

What's your leadership style, and how do you pay it forward in your organization? Let us know by tweeting @CountryClubBank or commenting on our Facebook page!


publication authors

Toni Walsh

Executive Vice President - Human Resources

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