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A persona of leadershipThe image and values a leader chooses to project across the workplace. is the image you adopt, the kind of person you decide to be when you stand in front of others as a director. What values will be most important to your particular leadership role, and how will they be transmitted? Psychologist Daniel Goleman has identified the following leadership styles in his book Primal Leadership:See Daniel Goleman, Primal Leadership (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2002).
Of course there are other ways of leading, and elements of these six models may be mixed in a single person, but taken together this group of strategies represents common ways of fostering specific values in the workplace. Two examples—John Buford and Carol Smith—illustrate how the strategies and values function together.
In a short video from the Washington Post’s continuing “On Leadership” series, the story of John Buford at Gettysburg in 1863 is examined.“On Leadership at Gettysburg: ‘Find Those Confederate Forces,’” Washington Post video, 4:40, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2010/04/21/VI2010042100960.html. Buford, a general in the Federal army leads a small force of cavalrymen on a mission to locate and engage Robert E. Lee’s Confederate forces. He finds them near Gettysburg and hatches a plan to arrange the coming battle on terrain that will favor the North. While his small group aligns itself on the high ground and begins battling the vastly superior Confederate force, Buford sends word to the main Federal army of his location and the advantage he’s holding. His group is nearly wiped out, but they resist just long enough for Federal reinforcements to flow in and occupy the adventitious ground. Days later, they’ll win the battle. The South never recovered.
Here are the episode’s key aspects according to the Washington Post’s Ed Ruggero:
Along with Buford’s autonomy and decisiveness, the significant ethical trait leaping out of the organization he led was the uniform willingness of those working with him to sacrifice for the larger goal. There is, at the heart of this organization’s culture as it was fostered by Buford, a sense of the importance of the collective over the individual. Buford isn’t the kind of leader who seeks to maximize the individual initiative of the members of his organization and he doesn’t set his team loose into competition with each other. Instead, he fosters firm camaraderie. Within the six types of leadership personas laid out by Goleman, Buford is, not surprisingly, a commanding leader.
Coming at this value from a different angle, Buford’s can be called transformational leadershipThe ability to transform the members of an organization into devoted and unselfish advocates of its goals.. In his book Business Ethics, O. C. Ferrell defines this as the ability to transform the members of an organization into devoted and unselfish advocates of its goals. In a word, it means the ability to inspire.O. C. Ferrell, John Fraedrich, and Linda Ferrell, Business Ethics, 7th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 134.
As the Washington Post video underlines, business isn’t war. Still, lessons in leadership—and the basic values animating one or another model—may be common to the two. So what kind of business might invite this commanding style? One possibility, one place that might do well under this model of leadership is a Domino’s Pizza franchise. First, because it’s a franchise outfit, because it’s an outpost of the central organization granted wide latitude and independence, the local manager and owner must be able to make decisions independently. There must be an ability to see a way forward and act even without approval from superiors. For example, all Domino’s locations share in the benefits of the central corporation’s advertising budget, but every individual manager is free to supplement those efforts. A franchisee may decide to send drivers to an apartment complex delivering discount coupons to every door or something similar. What’s important is that every neighborhood is different and offers unique opportunities. Success will require a leader who can get a sense of what might work at a particular place without constantly calling into corporation headquarters for guidance.
Further, with respect to the employees, the commanding style of leadership may be suitable when you take into account that most drivers have relatively little experience in the pizza business and aren’t particularly motivated for the Domino’s team. Almost no one signs up to deliver food because they enjoy it or see a bright future in that line of work. Given that reality, a commanding style—leadership that demands employees follow directions carefully and one that values deference to the delivery policy and rules—may work to keep the operation flowing well. More, the values of transformational leadership—devotion to the organization and the unselfish advocacy of its goals—may function to rally the drivers, to inspire a belief in the cause of the business even if, as is obvious, winning the neighborhood pizza delivery war is far less dramatic and important than Gettysburg.
Here are a few snippets from a newspaper interview of Carol Smith, a senior vice president and chief brand officer for the Elle Group:
|Q:||What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about leadership?|
|A:||The importance of winning over employees as opposed to bossing employees.…I sit in the middle of the table, always. I don’t want to sit at the head of the table. I want to be part of the process and part of the decision.|
|Q:||Let’s talk about hiring.|
|A:||You’ve got to meet someone three times, and one of them better be over a meal. It’s like a little microcosm of life. Throughout a meal, the personality comes out. Are you going to connect with us? Are you going to be part of the team, or are you going to be one of these independent players who wants to take all the credit? Are you good with assistants? Those are things you can find out in some subtle ways when you eat with someone.“No Doubts: Women Are Better Managers,” New York Times, July 25, 2009, accessed May 25, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/business/26corner.html?_r=1&8dpc.|
Referring these thoughts back to the list of six leadership personas, Smith reflects skills and practices of at least two distinct leadership styles: democratic and affiliative. Her custom of sitting in the middle of the table instead of stationing herself at the head isn’t an empty gesture, it’s part of the way she broadcasts openness to countersuggestions and input. Further, this kind of culture—one that values give-and-take and some sense of equality in the decision-making process—is bolstered by the distinction Smith draws between being a boss and being bossy. Being a boss means ultimately making, and taking responsibility for, decisions; being bossy means cowing people into grumbling obedience. It’s presenting herself as the former while resisting the latter that Smith believes makes her style work in her particular organization. Democratic leadership, finally, isn’t the same as political democracy; there’s no indication that Smith decides by taking a vote. But where the two do overlap is in the process preceding decisions: a high value is assigned to an open airing of differences, and to the insistence that all sides be heard and respected.
Smith also participates in an affiliative strategy for managing. When she invites potential new hires to dinner, she’s checking to see if they’ll add to the organization’s social harmony. Notice that Smith is probing for information about whether the new hire will mix with superiors, equals, and subordinates in the workplace. Every direction of social interaction is important. Of course the idea here isn’t that no work gets done because so much stress is placed on people getting along, it’s the opposite: because emotional integration is highly valued in the office, members of the organization are likely to work well together in pursuit of the organization’s goals.
One way of summarizing Smith’s management strategy is that she’s a negotiator, always trying to find ways to get people to come together in agreement. She’s not so interested in locking her employees in a march toward her company’s goals; instead, she activates their participation and then balances individual efforts to keep everyone on the same page. This quality can be called transactional leadershipLeadership dedicated to getting the members of an organization onboard through give and take, and inclusion., which means leadership dedicated to getting the members of an organization onboard through give-and-take and inclusion.O. C. Ferrell, John Fraedrich, and Linda Ferrell, Business Ethics, 7th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 134.
Moving into a general business environment, what kind of business might invite the style of leadership Smith promotes? Starting with what can be excluded, a Domino’s franchise probably wouldn’t work very well. In that business, driver turnover is very high, so she’d spend inordinate amounts of time balancing the social dynamic of a workplace that changed personalities on a weekly basis. Also, input from drivers who consider their work to be a McJob and have no experience in the pizza business would be of limited value. It’s very possible, in other words, that the values Smith privileges would quickly lead a Domino’s Pizza restaurant—or any enterprise depending on a large, high-turnover workforce—into red ink.
Apple Incorporated, on the other hand might be a good fit for Smith. We know from the Apple employee survey that the workplace values tolerance and individualism. Within a social dynamic like that, one where people are free to work (and show up for work) as they wish, the great danger is a collapse of the group effort into individualistic, self-centered projects and agendas. It takes an alchemy of personalities to make sure these different types of people are functioning well together despite their explosively individualistic outlook. The value of social harmony as promoted by an affiliative leadership style, consequently, might be crucial for this kind of workplace. Apple also sounds like a place where democratic-type leadership could bear fruit. One of the great advantages of diversity in the office is a wealth of viewpoints. For the right kind of leader—one valuing and encouraging contributions from every direction—that diversity can be translated into a maximum number of options for action. Of course if the leader is weak, those divergences will result in chaos; the trick is to maintain openness to the input of others without sacrificing authority and surrendering to rampant individualism.
Conclusion. No one style of leadership will work in every situation, and very few individuals will find that they naturally fall into one category or another. But a sense of the range of possibilities, and an ability to understand the different values holding them up, maximizes a leader’s chances for success.