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Leadership styles Do you use Push or Pull leadership

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;

Influential Leadership

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.


Sue L.

January 2, 2017at 3:11 pm

As we all know, there are a significant number of Millennials now in the workforce. With their propensity for not accepting the status quo of traditional hierarchical styled businesses and positional leadership, it seems likely that they will gravitate towards the influential style of leadership. Baby Boomers were raised by Traditionalists, the generation that was hardworking and preferred a formal workplace structure. The Traditionalists were also the pool that supplied the younger Boomers with leaders they could admire and mentors they could learn from. The Traditionalists grew up in challenging times with world wars and recessions, where being a strong, stoic and traditional leader was what was necessary to be successful. Boomers were raised to value traditional traits and many spent the bulk of their careers climbing the corporate ladder assuming leadership roles based on experience and length of time working for a particular company. Their roles in the workplace make up a large portion of who they are. As more and more older Baby Boomers retire, and younger Boomers gravitate towards starting their own businesses, it seems likely we will be looking at a significant shift in workplace leadership styles in large companies. Positional leadership roles might all but disappear except in very specific types of workplaces (ie military, emergency services, etc.). The modern workplace will likely lean very heavily on influential leadership styles with younger employees filling leadership roles. It would make sense for companies to consider this significant shift in the modern workplace as they look at strategic planning for the coming years. Sue L.


    January 20, 2017at 7:52 pm

    Sue thanks so much for taking the time to comment and adding some value to the article

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