In 1939, Kurt Lewin, along with a number of researchers, introduced a valuable and now famous approach to describing the various styles of leadership.2 There have been many, many studies and suggestions since that time about leadership styles. Dupre writes that style is “the relatively consistent pattern of behaviour that characterizes a leader.”3 Here I offer my understanding of style and present a model to help clarify the issue. This model compares purposeful work-directed leadership styles to help us better deine leadership and understand role model leadership. The uniqueness of this model is emphasized by comparison with other models referencing various social behaviours4 and personality behaviours.5 In this book, the
1 Robert Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader (Westield, IN: Robert K. Greenleaf Center, 1982).
2 K. Lewin, R. Lippitt, and R.K. White, “Patterns of Aggressive Behaviour in Experimentally Created Social Climates,” Journal of Social Psychology 10 (1939): 271–301.
3 M. Dupre, Leadership Is an Art (New York: Doubleday, 2004).
4 Robert Bolton and Dorothy Bolton, Social Style/Management Style (New York: American Management Association, 1984).
5 A Guide to the Isabel Briggs Myers Papers, 1885–1992, George A. Smathers Library, Department of Special and Area Studies Collections, University of Florida, Gainsville, 2003. focus is on the work of leaders who are changing things in value-add enterprises. The framework here describes the various ways that competent, purposeful role model leaders lead activities in their groups, teams, and organizations – the way these people do the work of leading others.
I believe that leadership style is a relection of the beliefs, values, and goals a person has developed as a consequence of his personal history and personal experiences and whatever wisdom he has gleaned from those. A leader's style, then, is inevitably personal. It is a way of behaving that has evolved partly by design but also by experience both at work and outside of work.
There are many, many different styles. Each of us has our own style of behaving as people and as leaders, and our followers sense that style, often better than we do. Often we, as leaders, have an idealized notion of our leadership style. We become in our minds who we think we should be rather than who we actually are. All aspiring leaders are predisposed to behave in certain ways as they seek to inluence people, and seldom does an aspiring leader move away from his dominant style.
Even so, an aspiring role model leader should learn a variety of ways of behaving purposefully. That is, she should understand the various possible purposeful behaviours or various styles and how they inluence people to do work in different ways. She should then examine what those different leadership styles have to offer. Finally, she should be open to reining her dominant style by learning and using different styles. The goal in this is to act purposefully in ways that make it possible for her followers to accept and work towards positive change. This is an important “identiier” of the role model leader.
It is important that followers – indeed, all the people in the organization – understand the leader's dominant style. They need to realize that in certain situations the leadership style may change, but they also need to be conident that their leader's dominant style will eventually return. Followers want consistent and purposeful behaviour from those whom they follow; but they also understand and sometimes welcome change if it is for a good reason.
All of this is to say that a high-performance role model leader should learn about and be able to adopt as necessary a wide range of purposeful leadership behaviours. In the literature, this idea that there is no single best style of leadership is called the situational leadership model, attributed to Hersey and Blanchard.6
6 P. Hersey and K.H. Blanchard, Management of Organizational Behaviour – Utilizing Human Resources, 3rd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1977).