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Leadership styles intrigue. There are many of them and as leaders or followers we have our own proclivities.

Situational leadership has been touted as the key – changing with the circumstances. Most of us don’t, at least not very much. We might change with our emotions, not the situation or person we are dealing with. With that in mind, let’s look at some leadership models I’ve encountered recently to enlarge your possibilities beyond tough or touchy-feely.

But having referred to situational leadership, I should clarify the actual model, outlined by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in 1968, since it’s cherished by many and unknown to others. It’s based on the belief that the people you manage want to improve and you have to tailor your style to their development. The four basic styles are directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. Those correspond with the four basic development stages: enthusiastic beginner who needs a directing style; disillusioned learner, who understands the basics but is struggling and needs coaching; capable but cautious performer, who has acquired good skills and needs a supporting style; and the self-reliant achiever.

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Another way to look at styles is through the prism of collaboration, which has become a byword these days. But there are many ways to collaborate, and the Center for Creative Leadership identifies three:

  • Dependent leadership cultures operate with the belief that people in authority are responsible for leadership. Direction comes out of compliance to authority, with people expected to align as they collaborate with the larger system’s expectations. Commitment comes from loyalty to the source of authority or to the community itself.
  • Independent leadership cultures believe leadership emerges out of individual expertise and heroic action. Direction results from discussion, mutual influence and compromise. Alignment involves negotiation between independent people and commitment comes from evaluating the benefits for yourself while trying to also benefit the whole community.
  • Interdependent leadership cultures assume leadership is a collective activity to the benefit of the organization as a whole. Agreement on direction results from shared exploration and the emergence of new perspectives. People adjust themselves continually to the direction, leading to alignment, and their commitment results from engagement in a developing community.

Those styles aren’t going to allow you to shift from day to day because it’s a cultural necessity in your firm. But they do indicate directions that your leadership could be expected to take or might take in different organizations or situations.

Eric McNulty, director of research at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, recently offered in Strategy + business four different domains for leaders guiding others in a fast-changing world:

  • Sense-maker: Helping to make sense of the circumstances people face so they can act.
  • Meaning-maker: This sounds similar, but refers to helping subordinates find meaning through their work. Millennials in particular are seeking purpose and a chance to exercise their values though work.
  • Place-maker: Before an organization can be a great place to work, it has to be a great place, which requires decisions on the physical elements and the rules, policies and protocols holding sway.
  • Space-maker: The leader should be able to step back and create opportunity for people and teams to generate breakthroughs.

Those can seem a bit abstract and are probably aspects of leadership, rather than styles, but they still merit thought. “Sense, plus meaning, plus place, plus space is the leadership equation that answers the question, ‘How can I help make you a success?’ If solved, it drives the innovation, commitment, and engagement for which so many organizations strive,” Mr. McNulty writes.

Lara Hogan, a leadership coach, sets out a rainbow of possibilities, each with a colour for name:

  • Red: A bit of anger, frustration, edge, or urgency.
  • Orange: Cautious, hesitant, tiptoes, low-risk.
  • Yellow: Lighthearted, effervescent, cracks jokes.
  • Green: In tune with feelings, loving, high emotional quotient.
  • Blue: Calm, cool, collected, steady.
  • Purple: Creative, flowy, great at storytelling.
  • Brown: Adds nuance, complexity, or ambiguity
  • Black: Blunt, unfeeling, no nuance, cut and dry.

She asks individuals she coaches some questions that are worth addressing yourself, with respect to her rainbow or independent of it. What’s your default leadership style? What other leadership styles are you comfortable leaning on? What leadership style is the hardest for you to embody or project? Which drains you? Which re-energizes you? Which do you know you should use more?

One style does not fit all situations. The more you are aware of possibilities – and your own instincts – the better manager you will be. Next week, we’ll look at the gender physics of leadership styles.

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Cannonballs

  • In arguing earlier this year that selection committees for university principals should be smaller and more willing to choose leaders from within, I mentioned Queen’s University, with its gargantuan 19-person committee, and also noted Patrick Deane left his post as vice-principal there in 2009 to head McMaster University after Daniel Woolf earlier that year was named principal of the Kingston, Ont., university. This week, Mr. Deane was named the next principal of Queen’s, now an outsider but with an insider background and experience in the top role. Not quite what I was proposing – leaders from within again passed by – but closer.
  • There’s a double standard in punishing misdeeds in the financial advisory industry, new research shows. Following an incident of misconduct, female advisers are 25 per cent more likely to lose their jobs and 30 per cent less likely to find new jobs than male advisers, the study found.
  • Advertising contrarian Bob Hoffman says women over 50 are the single largest demographic group with incomes over $100,000, with 82 per cent willing to try new brands, but little advertising is aimed their way as marketers seek men aged 25-34.

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