Studying leadership is fascinating. Whether you read books, attend seminars or learn from real life examples, witnessing different styles and their effectiveness can be very enlightening.
Many larger, bureaucratic institutions have entrenched leadership styles that dictate how people will lead others. Other smaller entrepreneurial endeavours are naturally influenced by the style of the entrepreneur themselves.
There are two main styles of leadership:
Positional Leadership and;
There are naturally sub-categories of these two styles, but lets look at the fundamental differences.
Positional Leadership is very common in larger organisations and to some extent, military organisations. It is a style of influence that is guided by a hierarchy, a system of submission. It is dictated by the philosophy that one person has more authority over another, either by position or title. “You will do this task because I am in a position of authority”. It certainly has it’s place in many circumstances and definitely in some critical emergency type of situations there needs to be a person with “positional power” who can lead people to a successful resolution.
Influential leadership however, is very different (sometimes referred to as Person Leadership). It requires somebodies persuasive abilities to convince someone to do something. It is a leadership style that often uses the example of the leader to assist in creating a desire to follow. It is a very powerful style that often suits the personality of a charismatic leader. Once understood, it is the style of leadership that has won wars, and frankly, started them!
Many military commanders will talk about the small number of soldiers that actually “lead” a group in to battle. It tends to be of the order of 5% to 6%. Frankly that number is probably very similar to the number of people who are charismatic/influential leaders in the world.
My first experience of influential leaders was when I was working for a large printing company during my summer holidays as a college student. I was given a task of getting some information from the employees who were working the printing equipment on the “shop floor”. I went through the staff and asked a series of questions but was unable to get the answer I had been looking for.
Dejected, I went back to the Vice President I was working for and explained that I had failed and was unable to get the answer to the question. He told me not to worry and asked me to wait in his office. Lo and behold, a few minutes later he returned with the information we needed.
As I questioned how he managed to get the information, he simply replied “You simply had to re-phrase the question until they wanted to give you the information”. It was a valuable lesson for me, one that involved communicating differently but was also a demonstration of influential leadership. Where I had been “shutdown” in terms of getting the question answered, my colleague had been able to access all the information we needed. He had led people to a pre-determined conclusion that he was interested in!
John Maxwell, is probably one of the most prominent authors on Leadership and I would highly recommend any of his books.