In our personal quest to define leadership styles, we forget to truly understand the very nature of an authentic leader, one that continuously adapts his or her behaviours based on the context and people they are interacting with. The ultimate best leadership style is the one facilitate the understanding of which behaviour or group of behaviours that increases our ability to predict our subordinate's behaviours, in any given context.
From a simplistic view point we can define the leadership styles as a categorization of predominant personality traits of an individual. For that reason, there are as many styles of leadership as there are leaders, each with their strengths and weaknesses. From a practical stand point thought, it would not be realistic to define a leadership style for each individual and as a result researchers, scholars and writers have extrapolated the most common and prominent personality traits that they believe are responsible for ones leadership characteristic. Again, and as I mentioned in "The evolution of leadership: From Philosophy to Market" article, the "how" to be a leader as definite marketing value and consequently transpires in how we define, or should I say market, leadership styles.
However, there are three main dimensions from which leadership theories, as well as the various leadership styles emanates from:
Consequently we could define leadership styles based on one or a combination of these dimensions as all of them have some motivational and inspirational significance.
As one could imagine these categorizations will greatly vary from one theory to the next. Some will use task versus people dichotomy to define their leadership styles. For example, the management grid also known as the leadership grid, developed by Dr. Robert R. Blake and Dr. Jane Srygley Mouton in 1964, as six predominant leadership styles associated with it. Regardless of their specific names, their leadership styles are part of a continuum, which ranges from a self-centered and firm approach to one that is outward looking and soft. Others, like Burns Transformational Leadership Theory or Bass Transformational Leadership Theory are not an exception to the "rule" as they are bringing a philosophical dimension to define leadership styles.
This multitude of possibilities is rendering the "how to define leadership styles" a complex answer in terms of ensuring that all leadership styles are accounted for! It's a question of quantity versus quality in the sense that too few categories eliminates the individuality that set us apart, while too many would simply render the understanding of leadership styles impractical.
In addition, one can use the task versus people dichotomy, human personality traits, situational conditions or even all of them to ensure that we properly define various leadership styles. That being said, we must face the reality that to date many have claimed to defined leadership styles adequately, in terms that they market the "key" to a successful leadership career, but have they? Yet, leadership training is a multi-million dollars industry and is in constant expansion.
It's important to understand that the reason we try to define the leadership styles is to provide some insight into what general behavioural pattern a leader should act out within a given specific situation. However, authentic leader will know how to behave in specific situations, which general leadership styles don't and can't address because there is no two same situations. Not to say that general information is not important, but the heuristic nature to define leadership styles as its purpose...success is in the details! Therefore, be critical in your thinking and do not take a specific leadership theory or style as being the only road to your successful leadership career. In fact, the question of what is the best leadership style might be the wrong question! A better one could be what personal values will make me an authentic leader.
Leaders are constantly seeking to exchange their knowledge, because that's how we increase our leadership skills.
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