Leader, Leadership and Leadership Styles

A walkway through the mid campus of Genentech


According to Alan Keith of Genentech “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen”.

A leader is a person who influences a group of people towards a specific result. But how that person influences varies with the style of the leader.

Leadership styles can range from the autocratic (“I’m going to tell you what to do”) to completely free reign (“You do it your way but get it right!”).  The easiest way to think of it, is in three main flavours.

Leadership Styles

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leaders provide rewards if, and only if, people perform as they require and are believed by the leader to work hard enough! This leader wants to contract with you in detail to set the exact reward you will receive for an exact amount of effort. This leader is unlikely to want to change how things are done or to listen to your suggestions for improving things; just make sure the agreed performance goals are met!

The leader will only intervene if they think something is wrong or the targets look threatened.  Expect to be closely monitored, though, and expect this leader to look for problems.

This approach can be useful when people are new and don’t know the work. Then the leader can be expected to turn into manager and provide very detailed instructions.

When you know what you are doing, this kind of leader can make you feel very demoralised, stressed and de–motivated.  This is particularly so when you know there is a better way of doing things.

Laissez-faire Leadership

This kind of leader leaves you to get on with things.  Now this works when you are a highly skilled craftsman or professional.  You take pride in your work you know you do it well; you drive on to achieve the objectives rarely needing help from anyone.

When you do need help, or another opinion, it may not be there for you.  You may not receive praise because the leader may not know enough about the work to know whether it is good or not!

Sometimes these kinds of leaders don’t really understand what they should be doing and just hope you know enough to cover for them!

Transformational Leadership

These are leaders who motivate you to commit to the vision of the organization!

They become your role model and sometimes you feel you would follow them anywhere! (I’ve worked for them but not often!) These leaders know where they want the organization to go and share the vision with you,

They also allow you to share that vision making process! They let you join in the problem solving and decision making without you feeling they have exploited you.  It is true sharing and involvement. They offer both challenge and support – they coach and they advise.  Yes, you do have to work hard but you feel motivated to do so!

These are the leaders who believe your personal development matters as well as the organization of which you are a part.

Sometimes though, the style isn’t appropriate, for example,  in real a crisis.  But those occasions should be rare.

So, when you think about styles of leadership what kind of leader are you? And what kind of leader would you prefer to work with?

I am Wendy Mason and I work as a Coach, Consultant and Writer. 

As a coach, I work with all kinds of people going through many different kinds of personal and career change, particularly those;

  • looking for work
  • looking for promotion or newly promoted
  • moving between Public and Private Sectors
  • facing redundancy
  • moving into retirement

I am very good at helping you sort out what you want, overcome obstacles and handle change.   Email me at wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com for more information

  • Becoming a Leader Today – What is Leadership? (wisewolftalking.com)
  • Are You a Transformational Leader? (psychology.about.com)
  • What Servant Leadership Looks Like (chrislocurto.com)

Becoming a leader – people you dislike

Image by theirhistory via Flickr

Before I trained as nurse, I worked for a while with children – boys seven to eleven – and I loved it.  They were a great bunch, full of energy and fun.  Most were very easy to work with but others were much more challenging. One day an older, wiser colleague took me to one-side to talk about the ones it was difficult to love.

The message was basically admit your feelings to yourself and then deal with them – find something good in the child and make sure that child never knows you think of them differently.  Easy to say but not always easy to do – it gets easier with practice and if you think of the child’s needs, rather than your own.

I find the same thing holds good in teams.  The reality is you may not like all people you lead.  If everyone in the team is a team player it is much easier to handle.  You’ll be working together towards a common goal and liking or not liking shouldn’t matter, if you stay focussed on the vision.

Working in a team, you learn a lot from, and about, your co-workers. Who exhibits the best leadership and how? Who drives everyone crazy and why? Who is a strong team player, who is a weak team member or, perhaps, who is not a team player at all

Of course, teamwork always works best when everyone is a team player. There is no “I” in team; this means that the team works collectively toward a common goal. If one team member is working for themselves alone, you won’t have a team. One person who is not a team player can spoil the experience and the results for everyone else.

If you are the team leader, you set the tone and are responsible for keeping the team intact.  And here is this person, who makes you want to work around them and avoid them at all costs.

Well, the first thing to do is to follow the advice I was given.  Admit to yourself you have a problem and, as leader, it is your for you to deal with.  Don’t leave it until others feel awkward and start to complain.

Now, this is where we veer away from the rest of the advice I was given.  You can’t keep quiet and just treat them all the same.  You do need to intervene and talk to the person who isn’t engaged.

Talk to them and tell them what you see, as quietly and objectively as you can; it really helps if you come prepared with examples.  Tell them about the effect on the rest of the team and on the work.

Then, give them an opportunity to tell you how they feel about the situation

See if there is a way you can work together to make a change.  If they are in the wrong role,  can they be moved? If they have the wrong skill set, can training be arranged?

What ways can you find to make them feel part of the team and draw them in?

Whatever your feelings, you must give them a chance to put things right. Remember that child?  Here again, you need to think of the other’s needs and needs of the team, rather than your own.

I would welcome your own thoughts and your experiences of leading and managing teams.  How did you handle team members you didn’t  like?  Are you honest enough to share your experience with us?  

I am Wendy Mason. I work as a Personal Development Coach, Consultant and Writer.I have worked with many different kinds of people going through all kinds of personal and career change, particularly those
  • looking for promotion or newly promoted,
  • moving between Public and Private Sectors
  • moving into retirement.

I am very good at helping you sort out what you want, overcome obstacles and handle change and I would like to work with you! I offer face to face, telephone and on-line coaching by email or Skype

Email me at wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 to find out more. 

"Just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you?" The characteristics of leadership

To have and have not!

It is interesting isn’t it that a lot of advice on leadership comes from people who have never had a chance to lead themselves.

This is true of advice on leadership in general and, I would say, it is true particularly of advice on change leadership.  Much of the advice comes from academics and, recently, it seems much has come from HR professionals and coaches.

Of course most of those writing have had many opportunities to observe leaders in action and with an educated eye.

So, I’ve been looking recently at what they say are the characteristics of an effective leader and views differ.

One gives the top three characteristics required as; humility, non-judgmental observation and a willingness to face problems.

Another quotes honesty, competence and being forward looking.

A third quotes interpersonal skills, communication skills and values

But I’m left wondering.

You see I would like to see every manager in the organization have all nine of those qualities!

I was surprised that giving clear direction figured on only in one of the lists and intelligence and vision weren’t near the top of any. In my view these are critical.

I want my leaders to be bright, as well as competent.

Yes, I do want them to be able to look ahead and see the ground clearly.  But then I want them to be able to form a vision; a vision that is communicated in a way that helps me to believe in it.

Yes, I do want a dialogue conducted by my leader using their well practised and convincing interpersonal and communication skills.  But then I want them to decide the way ahead in the light of their vision and give the organization a clear sense of direction.

I found the emphasis on honesty very interesting in the present climate – interesting and sad that we can no longer take honesty for granted in our leaders.

I looked up the meaning of humility just to be sure I understood it properly.  It means someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others. Well, yes, then I agree but I’m not sure that I would put it top of my list.  What about you?

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .

  • Are you a good leader? Time for a Mini- Stocktake! (wisewolftalking.com)
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The Leader with human flaws!

"Skeleton of human (1) and gorilla (2), u...
You are a human being!

Fact: nobody gets everything right 100% of the time!

So you are the leader! And thank goodness you are a human being too.  You can feel, you can relate and, guess what, sometimes, just sometimes, you can get it wrong.

Now because you are a leader many of your decisions have potential to resonate throughout the organization.  If you don’t have the insight to put the right arrangements in place, one bad decision can put the whole organization at risk.

But if you have the right governance arrangements in place, no single decision you make should be able cripple the organization or put your staff or customers at serious risk.

But it is up to you to put that governance in place!

If you do it well, it will not result in needless bureaucracy; nor will it erode your accountability for the decisions you need to take.  The right approach should free you up and allow you to be entrepreneurial, without undue risk.

But I believe putting governance arrangement in place is an art form – make sure you are well advised and that those in your governance structure are carefully chosen.

Then remember the old 80/20 rule – the Pareto Principle.   For entrepreneurs and business leaders this usually means:

  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of the time you spend
  • 80% of your sales come from 20% of your products
  • 80% of your sales are made by 20% of your sales staff

Make sure you stay clearly focused on the most significant areas of your organization – the 20% that really counts..  Find the key 20% and hone your decisions in those areas to perfection.

Then, with good governance and clear focus you will ensure that your organization doesn’t suffer a fatal fall as a result of a poor decision from you.

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .

  • The Pareto Principle and Its Application in Six Sigma (brighthub.com)
  • The Pareto Principle: Does the 80/20 Rule Apply to Your Life? (blogs.sitepoint.com)
  • An offer from Wisewolf – A simple but very effective form of personal and professional development. (wisewolftalking.com)

The Joys of Leadership – a Meditation for Monday

I have read and written so much about the challenges and difficulties of leadership.  You can spend so long thinking about how hard it is that you just lose sight of what it is really all about.

Research shows that very few of us work for money alone.  Of course money is important; I’m not going to pretend otherwise.  But most of us take more than money into account when thinking about how we are going to spend our working lives.

Being the leader can be exhilarating.  When you start a new project and bring people on board, then see them start to share your vision and work towards it.

Have you ever had the privilege of working on something big from the sketch on the back of an envelope to seeing the work complete.  And then coming back a few years later, when everyone takes what you put in place for granted!  You know how much you, and they, achieved!  They have moved on to the next challenge . But you have the quiet satisfaction of knowing it was a job well done.

Yes, I know it can be tough when it doesn’t work out like that.  Perhaps your plan didn’t work or someone else takes the glory.  Or it just got scuppered for no really good reason, at all.  Sadly that is life, and the reality of corporate life in particular.  You just have to get over it and get on with it!

At the end of the day real satisfaction comes from inside you and what you know you have done.

Oh yes, if you are good at what you do, you will get praise on the way.  If you get lots of it, and I hope you will, I hope you do the decent thing and share the praise with your team!

You will know sometimes that the praise you receive is deserved and sometimes it isn’t – you just got lucky!  Keep the modesty in your heart that allows you to know the difference!

But believe me there is no better thing to look back on in your career than bringing a vision into being and seeing others reaping the benefits.

You can remember those times next time you hit rough water.   And, of course, if you take on tasks worth completing, you will hit rough water.  If it was going to be easy, they wouldn’t need you! An easy job wasn’t what you signed up for anyway, was it, when you chose to be a leader?

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at 
wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439