by Bob Whitesel DMin., Ph.D., 6/7/17.
Having read hundreds of students’ papers over the years on leadership, I’ve become convinced that leaders have a fallback behavior on which they rely when they are uncertain, conflicted and/or under pressure. This leadership behavior can become a person’s “leadership style” for it is rooted in personality, experience and comfort. Understanding the leadership style and behavior on which you feel most comfortable (and may in times of pressure fallback) is critical for good leadership.
I have identified each of these leadership styles and named them the “three C’s.” Most people I’ve observed tend to prefer one over the others.
Competitive leadership style.
This is not the most pervasive, but is probably the most popular and lauded. This is a person who “competes” with others in a way to make his or her way preferred. When an underling brings up a new idea, they the competitive leader counters with their own ideas. This person may be insecure in their own abilities or skills and therefore may display behaviors that show they are more knowledgeable, more experienced and/or just more correct than the other person. They often grow organizations quickly. But because they often alienate people along the way by refusing to collaborate and welcome in outside ideas, the organizations tend to die quickly too. However they are celebrated in popular culture because of their superstar position in the organization.
Conciliatory leadership style.
This is probably the most pervasive. This person accommodates and gives in when confronted with a competitive leadership style in another person. While the conciliatory leader may share their own ideas initially, they quickly acquiesce to the other leader’s ideas, subjugating their own creativity and insights. These may be people who have an accommodating personality, having become accustomed to acquiescing to the will and wishes of others. But sometimes these can also be competitive leaders, who feel they are unable to compete with another leader. For instance, the other leader might be their boss or someone they highly respect. And, as a result they cannot compete with them but rather acquiesce to the stronger leader’s ill and wishes.
Collaborative leadership style.
This is probably the least practiced, but the most critical for success. These are people who draw out the best in others, and then form a team of leaders where multiple ideas and personalities work together for a common goal. They tend not to see things as black and white, but as a wonderful multi-hued mixture. John Wesley, after his conversion, increasingly demonstrated this style of leadership. His collaborative approach to utilzing lay preachers, giving women (second-class family members at the time) leadership roles while passionately reaching out to the poor, were but a few of the many examples of the collaborative way that Wesley led the Methodist movement. In partial attestation to this, today more than70 million Christians trace their heritage back to the collaborative leadership movement Wesley began.