Who do you follow? And how do they lead? The leaders I have enjoyed following were good listeners who didn't always have to be right, but they had to focus on solving problems.
In our careers, we'll all meet different leaders. Some can lead and be effective in the short-term. Others can sustain us through transition. But rare are the statesmen who can lead us through both.
Let's look at the styles and effective periods of each:
THE DICTATOR – Only effective during major turnarounds when everyone's hair is on fire. At this point, there is no time for consensus-building and group hugs. When you're trying to save the company from bankruptcy, the dictator will bark orders, fire those who are slow to react, and save you from ruin. But that's when the effectiveness of the dictator ends. Once everyone catches their breath, they want to be hugged again. The dictator has no time for that it is time for the dictator to go.
THE KING OF KUMBAYA – We've all worked for someone who emphasizes "the team" and consensus building. And those are great qualities. But if the sign on your door says, "Boss," then you have to make a decision. Your team can get impatient waiting for everyone to agree. Hey, this ain't a Democracy. At some point, consensus-building ends and you need to set a course.
THE EGOMANIAC – Well, it is all about you, isn't it? The egomaniac needs to take the credit for all the good ideas that work, and scramble quickly away from anything that isn't. (If you're old enough, think Larry Tate on "Bewitched.") Sometimes, the egomaniac slips in between the shadows of higher-ups and seems to be there whenever there's success being celebrated. The egomaniac gets the promotion that someone else deserves. But eventually, the egomaniac is exposed as an empty suit.
THE STATESMAN – Here's the true leader. The John Wooden type who is wise, but without an ego. Steadfast and true to his or her principles, but patient with those who try. The statesman can lead during crisis and during long-term transition. The statesman is honest without being cruel. The statesman says, "We made a wrong turn on this. Now how are we going to fix it?" The statesman says, "We own the problem. Now let's own the solution." The statesman puts aside his own interests and keeps eyes on the prize.
What kind of leader are you? And what kind of leader do you want to work for?