Leadership-Is It Interchangeable?


Leadership can be defined in many ways and there is plenty of literature that tell you how to be a ‘good leader’.   Quite frankly I’m a little sick of hearing about the new trends in leadership but that’s not because I’m a bad leader.   My view is that leadership has very different meanings.  Leadership is diverse and so are the qualities that make up a ‘good leader’.  For example, a ‘good leader’ in the manufacturing industry would look vastly different to a ‘good leader’ in the HR industry– why?  Because the skills required (soft and hard skills) would be linked to the outcomes of the business or division they lead.  A ‘good leader’ in manufacturing may need to be good at directing others – this is necessary to keep process optimized and keep everyone safe.  Ford is a great example of this, however this type of leadership may not fit well say in the HR industry where directing others might leave you with high turnover and a disengaged team.!
Now, I’m not saying they aren’t interchangeable but I would question that ‘good’ might mean different things to different organisations.   You could be in the same industry but change companies to find out that your ‘good leadership’ style is not so good at all!  Ask any CEO of an organization “What does good leadership look like”?  and I bet you’ll get a very different answer from each one.
There are also different leadership styles amongst CEO’s (which I guess means you can have different styles in the one job).  But do they get the same result? – well actually, sometimes – YES.  For example, look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – both had/have very different styles of leadership but took one of the worlds most recognised brands to new heights.  Were they considered ‘good leaders’ – to the shareholders probably yes.  See below for further insight.
So I’ve put together some key fundamentals that make a good leader – one that can transfer their leadership to different industries and organisations.
  1. Adaptability – The ability to adapt to different circumstances quickly and effectively is critical. You may have to adapt your style in a second depending on your audience.  Mastering this skill will make you a superhero of an organization.  Failing to do this will most certainly see you struggle.  But all of us have it in us – it is tapping into it that will be the tipping point but you do it socially.  Think about how you change your style amongst your friends/social groups etc.  Be aware of this and you will start to shift your thinking
  2. Listening – a ‘no brainer’ but listening is not just auditory. Observe your team – How do they interact with you and visa versa.  How do they interact as a team – do they collaborate well or are they working individually – coming to know your team is the first step in good leadership
  3. Boundary management – This is an interesting one. Being able to manage your personal boundaries/professional boundaries is just one part of boundary management.  Managing your team’s boundaries is also critical – are they getting stomped on by other divisions?  A good leader is able to build an invisible boundary around their team and you (as the leader) stand at the boundary.
  4. Performance Management – This is difficult for most people but having tough conversations with your team when they are not performing is key. If you see a member of your team acting badly – hit it on the head straight away – don’t let it fester.
  5. Story Telling – now hear me out! – A good leader is someone who can use their mistakes, turn them into stories and teach others how to avoid them. They are also good at painting a full picture of situations that are occurring in the organization that effect their team.
Now I’m aware that I have given you more to think about than answers so I’d be keen to hear your own thoughts.  What leadership qualities are critical to success in your organization?

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