There are so many leadership ‘how to’s’ in existence, and there’s seemingly an abyss of information out there. So, what do we read and trust with any semblance of authoritativeness?
I’ve embellished the following 10-topic structure which is direct from Human Synergistics—creators of the Organisational Culture InventoryTM, the Life Styles InventoryTM, and many more leadership and culture assessment tools and theory.
Firstly, leadership is considered at best prescriptive; at worst restrictive.
Personal Leadership Functions
At an intrapersonal level leaders impact their teams by:
1. Envisioning: as individuals providing leadership we provide clarity, defining the vision regularly for others in different ways. We must actively set out to provide a response to ‘delimiting’ modes that don’t specify vision i.e. if we don’t prescribe the vision others will set their own (‘interpreting’ what they see with the best of intentions) and they’ll be incorrect and misaligned.
Envisioning activity needs to converge and focus effort, not diverge and splinter effort. Leaders appear ambivalent when they don’t exemplify vision in simple, clarifying ways.
2. Role Modelling: the leader exhibits what they’ll eventually get. If we circumscribe our modelling behaviour narrowly that’s what we’ll get—a restricted view toward the example that should ordinarily be set.
Conversely, we are to actively exemplify the image we wish others to model from, personifying the values espoused. Simply, we need to behave strictly in ways we expect others to behave in.
Interpersonal Leadership Functions
At an interpersonal level leaders impact their teams by:
3. Mentoring: we do not ride the waves as followers. We must be active and not passive in this area. However, our methods can more appropriately be read as passive for the best results.
There are not many who want to be told what to do. The best mentors don’t appear to be “mentoring.”
4. Stimulating Thinking: how hard is lateral thinking? It’s impossible when we put a frame around it. Yet, lateral thinking is what’s required in prescriptive cultures. Vertical thinking i.e. ‘leave your brain at the gate,’ is outdated and redundant.
To rise to the fore, lateral thinking needs to be continually encouraged and commended through enthusiastic and open invitation, always.
5. Referring: no leader can know or be it all. They’re effective ‘general practitioners’ for those they lead. The better they teach others to fish for themselves the better they’ll be remembered.
But it’s not simply the desire to refer on—it’s getting the matches toward positive referents that is the key. This takes prudence, discretion and intuition—and an adherence to both team norms and contexts.
6. Monitoring: every leader must know and learn how to employ effective pulse checks to gauge performance levels and success. These are both overt and covert; a mix of the two. Both are contrasted with each other to ensure the right information (in context) is considered.
The trap for the young player here is the ‘by exception’ / ‘by excellence’ test. Stuck, restrictive leaders always i.e. predictably, shoot for a ‘by exception’ clause for their monitoring efforts. Not so with the prescriptive leader. He or she is overridden by the desire for excellence and is therefore open to the heart’s response to that end. This is not an easy thing to teach.
7. Provide feedback: perhaps the most motivating and inspiring and simultaneously the most deflating... receiving feedback can only ever be described as either a negative experience or a positive one.
Good, prescriptive leaders don’t provide feedback simply on the basis of the information; they consider a meld of cognitive input weighing the information with the person in mind, the context and the results desired. The thinking is therefore dynamic; the feedback given is hence “live” i.e. unrehearsed and therefore exciting, and potentially inspirational.
Organisational Leadership Functions
At a suprapersonal level leaders impact their teams by:
8. Reinforcing: what’s working well; what isn’t. No. Not those alone. Reinforcing activities need necessarily to promote rewarding interactions, almost always. Even when punishing there can be a rewarding facet to the reinforcement. Herein enters loving discipline that the person on the receiving end can truly appreciate.
9. Influencing: at a corporate level, influencing is about seeing organisational trends and responding in ways to influence change.
Unilateral influencing is an underplaying of situational determinants where one side alone is influenced to any significant degree—our outlook on influence needs to be less staid, embracing a much fuller picture of reality in view of all stakeholders.
Reciprocal influencing is all about the cliché win/win situation, and more; even to a win/win/win situation where all stakeholders are viewed as a collective. All parties are to be influenced positively and none are to be left behind as a situationally unloved orphan.
Influence that creates positive change for all parties can only be described as inspirationally innovative.
10. Creating a Setting: good, prescriptive leaders are at their core, facilitators. They make things easier and they assist progress, whether it’s enabling direct action toward the goal itself or employing focus on some of the more intuitive aspects of guiding the lesser known, but equally important, objects of the business at hand.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.
NB: I baulked initially at the notion of “prescriptive” leaders being the preferred model, but that was until I understood that most people want to be led, positively, interactively, not forcefully. The prescriptive leader hence has a confidence about them that exudes the desire to lead people toward good outcomes.