Leadership Development – Can You Experiment With Your Leadership Approach?

We live in a time of economic challenges. While there are economic and other problems to be solved, I prefer to see it as a great opportunity. There was never a better opportunity for a person with real leadership skills to stand up and be counted. In our management and leadership development training, we consider two extreme management or leadership styles.

Leadership Model One:

There is a need for managers to become leaders. But before I go on to discuss how this could be made possible, I would like to illustrate the most common approach to managing an organization. It is best illustrated by a pyramid with its apex on top. The apex can be labeled Manager, while the area below the manager represents all those working under the manager. Customers would be below the broad base of the pyramid, where the people serving the customers are. Thus the customers are nearest to the people on the lowest rungs of the ladder.

If customers have any problems they need solved, they approach the staff members who serve them. But in this management model, the people on the lower rungs don’t have any authority to decide. The power to make decisions only vests with the manager at the top rung. The direction comes from the top. This is a control oriented model. The solution is decided and passed down, through the layers, to the bottom. The solution itself may change a bit passing through the layers. And may not satisfy the customer, eventually.

Leadership Model Two:

In a second model, the leader is a supporter leader or a server leader. The second management model can be illustrated by an inverted pyramid, with its apex at the bottom. The server leader asks the people, “What can I do for you to help you to do a
better job?” In the first model, the manager asks the people “What can you do for me?” So, the first model is a “tell” oriented model while the second one is an “ask” oriented model.

Need For A Shift In Approach:

There is a need for us to shift from the first model (the most popular) to the second. For this to happen, the leader has to believe that the people have the answers to problems. It is a participative process, where people are encouraged to suggest answers to problems. They do have the answers; the key is asking the right questions. The shift from manager to leader involves a change of mindset.

In the second model, the people get the satisfaction from having the answer. The leader must realize that the greatest satisfaction is in getting the best answer, which need not necessarily come from him or her.

In other words, there is a need to shift to a more participative approach to management. Having said that, there is a danger of going on discussing a problem instead of taking a decision at the right time. While the most effective decision can be said to arise from greatest participation, a prolonged discussion can be counter-productive, if the decision is not taken at the right time.

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