Last week, we came across a seminal McKinsey Quarterly article that put all we have ready on leadership traits in good and realistic context.
McKinsey Quarterly in the article ‘getting beyond the BS of leadership literature’ articulates why success at the modern organisation is not about certain pedigree of a leader. To the contrary, it is about the context a particular organisation finds itself in and the leadership style that is deployed by the board of directors, other appointing authority, or the leader at the helm.
In very basic terms this is what Mckinsey Quarterly is alluding to: ‘leaders aren’t born but made’. Leadership shall derive effectiveness for organisations if there is fit between organisational context and leadership archetype. These two critical variables need situating within the overall organisational fabric.
Just like the manufacturer of a certain industry product studies the market before embarking on the design of a new or improved product, leaders ought to be appointed or behave in ways that fit both organisational context and leadership archetype; organisational context is the market, appointing authorities should aim to design appropriate products for – i.e. leadership archetype.
The above is equivalent to asking the question: ‘given where we are at as an organisation, what type of leader will serve us best?’; this question is different from: ’given the type of organisation we are, what type of leader is always best for us?’
The McKinsey Quarterly discusses five leader archetypes that have served organisations very well – call them for purposes of this blog, effective leadership archetypes. Below, we juxtapose the McKinsey Quarterly’s effective leadership archetype classification with that of Effectiveness-Lab:
1. The values purist:
This type of leader brings their moral DNA to the table – they believe in and espouse a values-driven approach to leadership. This leader’s approach is all geared to creating an environment at the organisation where humanistic values come before anything else. Such a leader will push for:
- A good organisational climate – for those in the hospitality sector, this is equivalent to guaranteeing at work: ‘a home away from home!’
- A strong values regime especially: integrity and respect for other human beings
2. The Chameleonic leader:
This type of leader places pragmatism before anything else. The chameleonic leader’s approach to business is determined by the likelihood of success; in their mind, business is about the practicality of applications and likelihood of achieving success. Chameleonic leadership styles manifest through:
- a high sense of flexibility – the end justifies the means
- morally wrong actions are justified to achieve morally correct outcomes
- such type of leader is big on ‘consequentialism’ – we have seen this kind of leadership behaviour amongst the leadership of ‘elite’ nations and their ‘mandate/s’ to attack and overthrow bonafide governments in Iraq and Libya
- such type of leader may at times sacrifice truth for wanted outcomes – the latter is anathema in the eyes of the moral purist above
- such type of leader can oscillate like a pendulum across leadership archetypes. They may choose to act the moral purist to achieve certain outcomes where staff buy-in is a must; but at some point may turn autocratic, when time bound and critical decisions to save the organisation are required
3. The drill master:
This type of leader is the king or queen in the kraal – the driller, whatever we want to call it, is characterised by individual control of most decisions. Drill master’s choose based on their idea and philosophy – they have fundamental belief in their philosophy and they will push to achieve what is ideal to them, at any cost
It ought to be noted that ‘drilling’ can be disguised as ‘values-purity’, especially when drill masters indoctrinate a team of ‘believers’ into accepting their philosophy. Friends, let us not put lipstick on a pig and try calling it something else – it is still a pig! The drill master style manifests through:
- obsession with their way of doing business
- ruthlessness to those opposed to their philosophy
- personal love for those that buy into their way of conducting business
- leader cult status, should success come their way – success is translated into valuable individual brand
- Those familiar with European football may know the famous Pep Guardiola: he is a drill master
Read more about
The Rainbow effect Organisation
Gabazira’s blog – The Effectiveness-lab:
Stop calling yourself a change management expert
The moral of the story:
Leadership literature and practitioners have led many to believe that leadership archetypes and the values that accrue from each are a linear, black and white matter.
The insinuation that leadership is about being born with one of the three generic archetypes above or indeed others we may not have defined in this blog, and turning individual leadership archetype preferences into a persona/individual brand to colour your curriculum vitae with, is flawed.
Indeed, it is a disservice to consider oneself a purist of any of the leadership archetypes. After all, the modern organisation has mutated so much and shall continue to do so, that it is difficult to attain organisational archetype purity. The world has witnessed organisations that are a bureaucracy for one year, an adhocracy the year next, and a combination of both at certain points in time. The age of leadership and organisational archetypes in black or white is long past – leaders and organisations they lead are manifesting more and more as shades of many colours – the so-called rainbow effect at the modern organisation
The truth is:
- Leadership style fit is determined by context at the organisation
- Leadership style is, therefore, time bound, since context can’t last forever
- Organisation boards and other appointing authority need to get the fit between Organisational Development (OD) state vs. leadership archetype right – both in the appointment as well as supervision of CEO’s
- It is no surprise that leadership tenure at the modern organisation is becoming ever shorter
The chameleonic leader, for their pragmatism and agile contextual-fit, is the effective-leader-archetype of choice for the Effectiveness Lab
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