The four (4) leader archetypes – situate your individual leader brand

Leaders provide direction, implement plans, and get the best out of people. Indeed those that succeed at leadership have the brains to not only define the right agenda and lead the people but also think hard and different. Leadership is a complex cognition process that takes place at various stages of the leadership journey. Leading is tough mental work.

We have written so many times on this blog, that leadership is not as generic as the world wants us to believe. To the contrary, leadership is systemic, and as we will see later, success comes to those leaders that combine the right leadership archetypes plus match them to a particular business situation.

Amin Dada – the perfect situational-archetype leader

For those that have been following this leadership-OV blog series – we initially analyzed leadership from the perspective of a bionically balanced organization alongside its three peer organisational-vitals [strategy, design (architecture), and people]; we then looked at leadership through the organizational culture lens – specifically looking at how various aspects of culture influence leadership success; the unique situations in any leaders life i.e. the crosswind factor. We also discussed leadership attributes and how they bring about success for leaders.

Yes, we are dealing with extraordinary organizational development (OD) complexity. It is an amazing interplay between OD realities and the workings of the modern organization

At the Effectiveness lab, we are aware that not many of you have reason to look at leadership through the systemic lens – i.e. leadership is typically studied, discussed, and even more concerning, practiced in silos; and not as a system of intertwined organizational vitals and their interface with the organization. The latter takes us back to the now common assertion at the Effectiveness lab that leadership is not generic. Leadership is a multivariate and systemic phenomenon.

Management scholars generally classify leadership under four (4) categories. We call the categories for purposes of this blog archetypes. Apparently, leaders tend to show bias towards one of the archetypes.

This particular blog delves into leader archetypes. Leaders are categorized into specific archetypes; moreover, certain leader archetypes work a lot better in particular organizational culture eco-systems than others. It ought to be noted that leader archetypes are different from a leader’s innate biomarkers and attributes.

Leader-archetypes:

  • Trait

This archetype focuses on individual leader characteristics. It uses the unique attributes of a person to portray habits that drive successful leaders. Individuals like Henry Ford, and more recently Steve Jobs of Apple have left indelible marks on leadership literature and practice. Such Individuals of high standing have been used as the benchmarks for quintessential leadership.

The trait archetype is not different from the Effectiveness lab’s position that leaders are born and not made – and that they have innate biomarkers that make them effective leaders. When such leaders lead, others follow.

  • Behavioural

The focus for this archetype is leader behavior. Indeed, much of the general theory of leadership is shaped by behavioral aspects. If you behave a certain away, you are certified a super leader. We conducted a Google search on the two words ‘leadership behavior’, and it returned sixty-nine million, two hundred thousand leads!

It is therefore not far-fetched to write on this blog that there is a rubric for accepted leadership behavior – it’s akin to a professional code of conduct. The problem, however, is that the so-called rubric is too varied that there is almost no rubric at all.

An example of the confusing successful-leader-behavior rubric is Steve jobs. While Jobs was a leader with unique traits and led Apple to the most valuable company spot, he was also known for his extremely poor emotional intelligence skills. Some people didn’t like to work for Steve Jobs – yet he is acclaimed as one of the smartest business leaders of his generation

  • Power-influence

The focus for this archetype is power and how it is used to influence results. Power comes in several types – coercive power, expert power, legitimate power, information power, etc. Ultimately, power puts the leader in a position to exert their will over others. Power can be used to influence others. Influencing can be both good and negative. For example, leaders may use legitimate power to convince others to believe in their vision; a leader may also use coercive power to convince others to commit a genocide against others

  • Situational

This particular archetype is the opposite of Trait leadership. Apparently, leaders are not born with unique biomarkers per se, but are created out of specific situations. In effect, this archetype assumes that your journey to leadership is to a large extent brought about by chance and circumstances and not necessarily one’s competence.

If you are in the right place, at the right time, you can become a leader. A very good example is the late President Idi Amin Dada of Uganda and how the West brought him into power. Amin was in the right place and at the right time, as the cold-war struggles between the West and East shaped politics and the fortunes of African’s South of the Sahara. The Israeli’s, helped by the watchful eye of the British, facilitated Amin’s 1971 Coup de tat against Milton Obote. Amin was in the right place, at the right time and the rest is history

The truth:

Classic leaders have innate biomarkers that cause the quintessence they bring to the table. We at the Effectiveness lab still stand by our proposition in this leadership-OV series that effective leaders have certain innate traits or bio-markers and that they are mostly born with them. Therefore, amongst the four archetypes above, the trait archetype is primary but needs to be augmented by the other three secondary archetypes [behavior, situation, power and influence]. No archetype can on its own produce quintessence in leaders.

The attempt by the world to view leadership in siloed archetypes has to be challenged by the smart leader and OD community of practice. Leaders do not survive on one archetype. For example, leaders that ascribe to the situational archetype like Idi Amin Dada, need other leader archetypes to succeed. Amin was planted by Western powers on the people of Uganda, a pure situational archetype scenario, yet he failed because he didn’t have the right leader behaviors – Amin used power to coerce Ugandans and the world, and more important, simply didn’t have the right traits or biomarkers for effective leadership

Have you thought about assessing and situating your individual leadership brand? You may want to do so now; after all, effective leadership in a bionically-balanced entity requires different combinations of leader archetypes. For example, to effectively leverage the ‘People’ organizational-vital, the behavioral archetype may work better than the situational or even trait

Friends, analyze your leadership brand and pitch it right.



Categories: You, the Leader!

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