Typically people try to emulate others that they think have an impactful leadership style without considering what characteristics or competencies they naturally bring to their leadership. Naively, they think that if they act like Jack Welch or Steve Jobs … or conversely don’t act like one of the bosses in the movie “Horrible Bosses” they will be a great leader. There are numerous books, articles and blogs about how to be a successful leader. For example, this blog points out the top ten qualities that make a great leader or another one describes the four critical traits of great leaders. While some of this information can be an interesting read and can serve as a useful reminder, in general, I am not a big fan of this content as the writers tend to dumb-down what it takes to lead. But, most importantly they often miss the two key factors for us to understand regarding leadership. First, one must understand himself, and second, we must understand our audience.
I guest lectured recently In Ron Culp’s graduate PR class at DePaul University and spoke about knowing yourself to define your leadership style, then knowing your audience to understand what people need to experience to want to be lead by you. In this class we completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to learn what style we naturally emphasize when leading others. Through sharing their MBTI types, the students were able to learn about the diversity of types within this group and what each would need from a leader to respond favorably. Then, we discussed how they would each would have to adjust their natural style to be effective leading this group.
The correct melding of “you with they” can produce this situation as David Foster Wallace wrote, “A leader’s real ‘authority’ is a power you voluntarily give him, and you grant him this authority not with resentment or resignation but happily.” (From “Up, Simba: Seven Days on the Trail of an Anticandidate,” in the book “Consider the Lobster and Other Essays”.)
The deck that I developed for this class can be viewed here.