As astute as the students in the Sunday school class are in defining their limited understanding of leadership, there was one word glaringly absent from the list they came up with. That word is “influence.” Leadership is a process of influence. Anytime anyone seeks to influence the thinking, behavior or development of people toward accomplishing a goal in their personal or professional lives, they are taking on the role of a leader. There are formal aspects of leadership such as can be found in political and business arenas or through positional authority; or informal aspects as in one who influences a group of friends. The term leadership usually implies some “leadership skills” or competencies. Of course, the teens weren’t familiar with the word “competency” so I needed to explain that it means the skills, knowledge and ability to do something.
We discussed how everyone has a particular leadership style and that no matter what that leadership style is, it is going to fall into one of three categories:
- Authoritarian or autocratic
- Participative or democratic
- Delegating or Free Reign
This is where we began to play our next game. I posted the words authoritative, participative and delegating on the board and asked them to decide for each of the twelve common leadership styles I was going to present, which ones fell into which category and that some leadership styles may belong to more than one category. Out of the twelve categories, they guessed 11 right. These are the leadership styles we discussed:
- Autocratic Leader: has total authority; has the sole power to make decisions
- Bureaucratic Leader: very structured; follows all procedures as they’ve been written
- Charismatic Leader: leads by infusing energy and eagerness into to their team members
- Democratic Leader: studies team members’ ideas and makes the final decision; everyone contributes to the final decision
- Environment Leader: nurtures a group or organizational environment; uses organizational culture to inspire individuals to and develop leaders at all levels
- Laissez-faire Leader: “Leave it be” leadership; gives no continuous feedback or supervision; associated to leaders that don’t lead at all
- People-Oriented Leader: supports, trains and develops his personnel
- Servant Leader: accomplishes goals by giving team members what they need in order to be successful
- Situational Leader: uses different leadership styles depending on the situation and the type of employee that is being supervised
- Task-Oriented Leaders: focuses on the job and concentrates on the specific tasks assigned to each person; shows no involvement in the team’s needs; also known as a micro-manager
- Transaction Leader: power to evaluate and correct team members; rewards or punishes the team’s performance
- Transformation Leader: is highly visible and uses chain of command to get a job done; motivates the team to be effective and efficient; focuses on the big picture
For some reason the term Laissez-faire Leader generated a lot of laughs. I told them it was probably easier to remember this type of leader as the Lazy-faire leader. They might also remember this leader as a “LOSER!” The one they had the most difficulty categorizing was Charismatic Leader. They believed a charismatic leader would be a good delegator, when the opposite is true. With charismatic leaders, the organization or group they lead rises and falls on their personality and ability to motivate. If the charismatic leaves, the group falls apart because there isn’t anyone equipped to take over and lead. The charismatic leader likes to hold all the power. In my mind this is authoritarian, passive-aggressive perhaps, but authoritarian nonetheless.
So how did you do in categorizing these leadership styles? Did you do better than the teens? If you want the answers as we discussed in class, send me an email and I’ll shoot them out to you.