Hail To Squints Our Leader

About a year ago my wife and I inherited a rambunctious and energetic kitten from our son and daughter-in-law who have moved to Scotland. We have grown to love Squints our beautiful Bombay cat in the year we have had him. We mainly laugh at and enjoy the quandaries he gets himself into. But there are also times, as most cat owners would admit, where we wonder why we took on this responsibility. Regardless, we love having Squints the leader around.

Squints always seems to be in control of his actions and behaviours. He exudes confidence, coolness and calm. Throughout the day he displays many behaviors. He can be needy when he wants food, affectionate when he wants some love, ornery when he is bothered, playful when he wants some attention, arrogant when he is not allowed to do things his own way and moody when he wants to be left alone.

Squints is also very watchful and observant especially when he scouts out potential food sources like birds and bugs. He will pose as a sentinel for a few minutes until he chases the birds and bugs down. He then pounces sometimes successfully. Squints is also highly vigilant when dogs are around. He either hides or avoids them, or more frequently he finds a safe spot he can run to and just stares at the dogs daring them to attack.

Squints is a character and the description of his unpredictable moods, actions and traits seem rather like describing the character traits and behaviours of leaders I have seen in action. A key difference though is that Squints seems to have all of these wrapped into one. Most leaders usually demonstrate a propensity to be a certain type of leader like the:

  • Confident and calm leader — A leader who always seems to handle things calmly. When difficult situations arise this leader is good at solving problems and on the surface seems to be in control. Sometimes though this type of leader is usually good at hiding what is really going on inside and there is a personal cost to always appearing to be in control.
  • Indifferent leader — A leader who is indifferent what is going on. A leader who puts in the time and doesn’t really care for people or for the organization. At worst this leader withdraws and becomes invisible leaving it up to others to lead.
  • Needy leader — A leader who always requires affirmation and assistance. This leader relies on others for solving problems or completing tasks. Sometimes they take the credit for the work done by others.
  • Feisty leader — A leader who always demonstrates tenacity and persistence. This leader is a great problem solver and gets things done. Sometimes though this leader is overly persistent which can sometimes lead to aggressiveness and steamrolling.
  • Arrogant leader — The leader who stands aloof, independent and standoffish. Often ego driven and usually believes in doing things alone. This leader does not cope with feedback well and generally ignores or gets defensive if given input from others.
  • Moody leader — A leader who is unpredictable, sometimes short-tempered, irritable and at worst unstable. This leader is tough to read and always keeps people guessing. People usually walk on egg shells around this type of leader.
  • Vigilant leader — The watchful, alert and sometimes cautious leader who is always observant and aware of what is going on. Sometimes this leader is so watchful that risk-taking is minimal and everything has to be lined up perfectly before making a decision or initiating an idea.

Not all of these leadership types are bad and not all of the leaders who display these are poor ones. In fact, at certain times and in certain situations leaders need to demonstrate traits like confidence, vigilance, tenacity and neediness. Problems arise when leaders choose a leadership style exclusively and when it is used to advance self rather than the advancement of the organization and the people working within the organization.

Squints really cannot do much about the types of behaviors and actions that he displays. There is no pretense about who he is and what he does. Squints is a cat and he really is not harming anyone too much by his actions. However, we do have the ability to examine how we lead and what type of leader we want to be. And we can harm our organizations and the people we lead.

Do these leadership types describe some of the leaders you have worked for and with? Do you recognize yourself? I hope that these descriptions spurred some thought about how you lead and the type of leader that you are. They did for me. I encourage you to take some time to examine yourself and write out a description of the type of leader who you think you are. Or even riskier, ask others to describe how you lead. Give them the list of the leadership types and ask them to write out a description of you and encourage them to write one for themselves. Being more aware of your leadership style is worth the effort and the risk.

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