Given the variety of leadership challenges that an increasingly turbulent and uncertain world throws at us, developing into a chameleon leader has become an imperative. Considering we all have a go-to leadership style, wouldn’t it be great if we could deliberately choose the leadership posture that best fits the situation at hand?
Indeed, becoming a better leader now not only means improving our leadership skills in our dominant leadership style, but also expanding the range of our leadership abilities to deal with circumstances outside our comfort zone.
At the center of our approach lies an innovative leadership framework based on two widely recognized leadership development models.
Adapted from Josephs, S. A., & Joiner, W. B. (2006). Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change. Jossey-Bass, and Rooke, D., & Torbert, W. R. (2005). Seven Transformations of Leadership. Harvard Business Review, 13.
As we can see with the percentages in black ovals, an invisible barrier stands between achiever (conventional) leadership and catalyst (post-conventional) leadership.
Each leadership development stage has its pros and cons. For example:
A conformer leader is great at managing teams and processes that require first and foremost predictability and abiding to strict procedures.
An expert leader makes an excellent mentor for junior recruits who need guidance on how to perform activities.
A transformer leader is the right person to engage teams in transformation and lead them through uncertainty.
The leadership development stages model challenges the common assumption that higher styles are always better than lower ones. Instead, effective leadership is eminently situational; it morphs to suit the context and situation at hand. As proof, great leaders seamlessly mix and match leadership styles. For example, a leader having reached say, catalyst stage, can deliberately behave in any leadership stage lower than catalyst if needed.
Putting our leadership framework into practice requires first gaining awareness of your dominant leadership style, second realizing when other leadership styles – even “lower” ones – make sense, and third, experimenting new leadership behaviors to expand your leadership range as desired.
Note that this exercise is collective. The dominant leadership style, for example, is probably fairly consistent throughout your teams as the organizational culture and the hiring and promotion habits tend to lead to a “commonly accepted” leadership style in the organization, for better or worse.