When it come to leaders, does one size fit all? Some management theorists list five or ten qualities that make a good leader, but does every situation require the same type of approach and the same skills?
Broadly defined, a leader is someone who takes a group of people from Point A to Point B. Will a person who defines the vision for the company be the best one to get them out of a burning building? Not necessarily! Leaders with particular style might be better suited to a group at given time, but this might change as the company grows.
What characterizes leaders and separates them from most managers is vision. Effective leaders have a grasp on the big picture. Does this mean that the leader will always be the moral compass for the group? Outside of the Boy Scouts, probably not. Adolph Hitler was a leader who represented misguided values while in high office. In less extreme cases, a person with ethics but moral weakness in some areas, can still guide the company effectively in many other areas.
The British firm Team Technology defines several leadership styles for appropriate for different types of groups, or at different stages of the group’s life:
- Participative: When you need commitment and cooperation from others to pull a project together, a leader who can work with different personalities and build consensus is a great match.
- Idealogical: When the group needs direction on goals and values, the idealogical leader can keep the mission fresh.
- Change-oriented: When the group needs to break out of the status quo and embrace change, this type of leader can forge a new direction.
- Visionary: When the group needs to develop a long-term vision that might even set the company on a new course, a visionary leader make plans way outside the box.
- Action-oriented: When the group needs someone to lead the charge and provide an example, the action-oriented leader is ideal.
- Goal-oriented: When group needs the mission of the company redefined and distilled into strategies, a goal-oriented leader can make things clearer.
- Executive leadership: When the group needs organization, policies, procedures, role-definition, or resource allocation. an executive type of leader is a perfect fit.
- Leadership theorist: When the group needs technical direction or intense intellectual discussion, a leadership theorist can contribute to the analyses and determine the correct model for the group.
When leadership is viewed as a role that might take different forms, it is clear that the skills required to be a leader vary too. Ideally, a good leader is flexible enough to embrace the style the group needs at the time – but some people specialize with groups that are at certain stages and move on.
If you want to be a leader, you must first determine what your skills are. You may find that you have several qualities that make a good letter and may also find that your group has need for several things you offer. One size definitely does not fit all.