Questions From The Class:
1. In your opinion, is a great leader born or can a great leader be made?
2. Should leadership be sought after, or if in fact an individual is gifted in the area of leadership, will he or she be sought after?
3. Based upon your experience is it easier to be a leader or a follower?
If you are seasoned in your career, chances are you've already experienced a variety of management and leadership styles. And chances are your own style has been evident to those you've led and managed. Three of the most prevalent leadership styles that I've experienced over my career include: those who lead as if born to it (natural); those who lead others as they have been led (nurtured); and those who lead through fear, intimidation, and manipulation (neutered).
Whether or not you believe in the concept of "born to lead," it would appear some among us are more predisposed than others. For example, the 5% of the population whose Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is ENTJ (Extraverted-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging). These folks are described as "Executive" or "Leader" material. I'm pretty sure that ENTJs don't dominate the leadership ranks in organizations (that would be mathematically impossible) but I would venture to guess that ENTJs over-index as a percentage of all business leaders relative to their percentage in the population.
In his classic work on social learning theory, Stanford behaviorist Dr. Alfred Bandura found that people learn new behaviors by: 1) observing the actions of role models they can identify with; 2) approximating the behavior they've observed; and 3) receiving reinforcement for their adopted behaviors. His early studies recorded children reacting to aggressive television programming by punching a "Bobo" doll (those who watched Mr. Green Jeans and Romper Room should recall this near-life-sized, sand-in-the-base, bounces-back-up, inflatable doll). Like Bandura's laboratory observations, it is easy to see how the workplace can provide an environment of modeling, mirroring, and reinforcement leading to learned leadership behaviors--good, bad, and ugly.
While this type of leadership can be very effective in achieving short-term organization goals, the means (e.g., fear, intimidation, manipulation) can overtime damage an organization's climate, culture, and cohesion. One powerful yet poignant scene from Mel Gibson's "We Were Soldiers" illustrates this well. Commanding officers observe as new recruits are put through field exercises led by two very different patrol leaders--one who verbally abuses his men, the other willing to stop the exercise to tenderly check the physical condition of one of his men. The viewer is left with no doubt on which patrol leader the commanders will ultimately affirm, promote, and entrust. He is the one best able to accomplish the mission while garnering the respect of those he'll lead into battle.
Finally, I left the class with a few tips as current and future leaders:
Be Real: Avoid hypocrisy at all costs if you hope to earn respect, build trust, and gain loyalty amongst your team.
Encourage: Your team needs to be positively challenged to dig deep within themselves and driven to give their very best. They need to have ownership in the hits as well as the misses.
Attitude: Have fun! Really, if you are not enjoying the process and your people, you will never fully appreciate the outcomes.