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leadership modelsStrong leaders are essential for a successful project, but what goes into making a good leader?  There are many competing ideas for what a leader should be like, and many situations that require different types of leadership. This scenario has culminated into what we now call leadership models. Examples of some of the leadership models are exemplary leadership, servant leadership, transformational leadership, situational leadership and competency-based leadership.

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Each leadership model has had its fair share of criticism. For example, an article in Forbes recently criticized the way companies often judge and promote leaders.  Many companies see competency as the key quality that a leader should be judged on, but this leaves out most of the qualities that make a good leader.

“Nothing fractures corporate culture faster, and eviscerates talent development efforts more rapidly, than rewarding the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Don’t reward technical competency – reward aggregate contribution.”

The author, Mike Myatt, argues that technical competency should be assumed and not rewarded.  Instead, companies need to promote leaders who know how to use their knowledge well, inspire others, and create a team-oriented atmosphere.

With that being said, let’s take a look at a couple of the popular leadership models being used in the business world today.

Exemplary Leadership

This model is based on the concept that the best leaders do the same things wherever they are, rather than assuming that they share certain personality traits.  The five essential practices of exemplary leadership are:

  1. Model the Way – Leaders act the way they want their teams to act, and serve as models for behavior.  They show how fellow employees, supervisors, and customers should be treated. They set the standard.
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision – If the leader doesn’t believe in what they are doing, their team won’t care much either.  Great leaders share their vision with their teams, bringing their own charisma and creativity to the project and inspiring others to do the same.
  3. Challenge the Process – Leaders are in the best position to make real changes in the direction of a project, and they need to be confident enough to take new opportunities that may be at odds with the status quo.  They can’t be afraid to make mistakes, which are inevitable.
  4. Enable Others to Act – Leaders are nothing without people to lead.  They should actively involve team members and encourage them to act and contribute ideas.  Respecting each team member builds the sense of community and openness vital to creating a great project.
  5. Encourage the Heart – Leaders need to know that sometimes work can be quite challenging, and people are often frustrated.  By always acknowledging personal contributions and sharing the results of good work, leaders can make others feel like the star of the show and keep their teams motivated.

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Servant Leadership

This style of leadership takes the view that leaders are there to enable others, to encourage a team to create something that no individual could.  The Seven Pillars of servant leadership are:

  1. Being A Person of Character – who maintains integrity and humility.
  2. Putting People First – someone who is there to serve and cares for people.
  3. Skilled Communication – showing empathy and encouraging feedback.
  4. Compassionate Collaboration – giving congratulations when they are due, negotiating conflict well.
  5. Foresight – being able to predict future developments and problems.
  6. Systems Thinking – being comfortable working with complicated systems with many facets.
  7. Leading with Moral Authority – moral authority is something that can only be given by others, and this is a reflection of how well a leader encompasses the previous six pillars.

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These two leadership models differ on their overall perspectives as well as some of their guidelines, but they are similar in many ways.  In each, a leader must serve as the example for behavior and encourage their teams to work together creatively.  You may notice that both of these models focus on the aspects of leadership that companies should be promoting, according to the Forbes article above.

Just like any other field of knowledge, it will greatly benefit leaders of all kinds to be aware of multiple models of leadership, giving them a more comprehensive view of the relationship between a leader and their team.

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Page Last Updated: February 2020

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