What makes a great leader? Key traits of effective leadership styles

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My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence. General Montgomery

Though General Bernard Montgomery’s quote on leadership might seem slightly out-of-date, the very basics are still as valid as they have been decades ago: the 3 necessary conditions for leadership to exist are (1) a person with the capacities and personality to lead, (2) a group of people and (3) a goal. Together they create the classical leadership scenario.

The Harvard Business School offers a complementary definition of what leadership is today, and raises the bar of what is expected from current leaders and leadership styles: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” So, above all, a leader is supposed to bring people and teams to their best performance level, focussing on achieving a concrete lasting result.

What is leadership?

What is the essence of leadership? According to The Leadership Circle’s Chairman Robert Anderson who has researched leadership for the past 35 years, leadership is a series of 4 promises, as defined in his recent work Mastering Leadership (2016). Leaders are people who hold the four Promises of Leadership and:

  1. Set the right direction and create meaningful work
  2. Engage all stakeholders and hold them accountable
  3. Ensure that processes and systems facilitate focus and execution
  4. Lead effectively

When a Promise of Leadership is neglected or unfulfilled, trust is broken, engagement erodes, and performance suffers.Bob Anderson

Leadership skills of a good leader

Anderson defends that 5 dimensions of leadership competencies are the key to authentic leadership styles:
Relating Dimension refers to a leader’s ability to relate to others in a way that brings out the best in people, teams and organizations.
Self-Awareness describes the tendency to continuous professional and personal development, including profound self-awareness and integrity.
Authenticity measures a leader’s capacity to relate to others in an authentic, courageous, and high integrity manner.
System Awareness defines the level of awareness for improvement of the whole system and community welfare.
Achieving Dimension measures to what extent a leader is visionary, authentic and a high achiever.

Progressing in these dimensions is where leaders need to focus on to develop great leadership styles. And there is a good news: though one might be born as a leader, leadership is not tied to genetics. One can learn to become a great leader. Big part of the work to become a great leader requires exploring and working on your self.. Anderson describes it as “the inner game”. In order to develop Leadership Consciousness, a leader must clarify their

  • Meaning-making system – what we use to make sense of the world
  • Decision-making system – how we analyze, decide, and act
  • Values and spiritual beliefs
  • Mental models they use to understand reality, think, act, and create
  • Internal beliefs and assumptions making up their personal identity

Management and Leadership styles

Table with predominant leadership styles in each stage of the evolution of civilizationThe types of leadership have changed all along the evolution of civilization. From autocratic leadership to charismatic and today’s creative, participative, authentic leadership, each evolutionary stage in the past 50.000 years of human evolution developed its predominant style of leadership. During the tribal phase, authoritarian leadership based on fear was the usual form of leadership. Hierarchical leadership based on rules succeeded this type of leadership during the age of agriculture, followed by an executive leadership style that emerged during the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Finally, the current model of the information era considers organizational leadership as a service. Empowerment, values- and purpose-driven culture plus a perspective of multiple stakeholders are the key innovations of this stage. Frédéric Laloux’s book “Reinventing Organizations” details the different stages of leadership development, and offers an extensive analysis of the emerging Teal Organizations of the future.

About Shine: Leadership Coaching for executives and business owners

At Shine Coaching, we are specialized on developing leadership competencies of executives, business owners and entrepreneurs to a next level. We use the US-american Co-active Coaching model, which uses a client’s intellectual, emotional and corporal intelligence in order to tap into his/her full leadership potential.