Changing Leadership Styles to Adapt to Technology is Wrong
So what is the best Leadership “Style?”
I’m going to be a little bit pedantic here, and just make a commentary, that I don’t believe that there are necessarily leadership “styles” — like there are styles of shoes or suits or other stylistic type things.
So what is leadership?
Personally, I think leadership is about timeless principles. I think it is about the nature of the individual and who they are, where they are going and what they are about— creating a following. And I can give you all sorts of lectures on the nature of leadership and what that really means.
I get a little bit annoyed when people talk about leadership styles.
What leadership really means is how your personality comes across while you engage with the process of leading.
As long as your personality doesn’t change, your leadership style won’t (or shouldn’t) either.
The bottom line is, leaders lead. In order to be a leader, you have to have followers. Leadership implies follower-ship. When you have people following you because they like where you are going and you have communicated that somewhat clearly. You are therefore, by definition, a leader.
What personal style you have as you engage in that practice and those disciplines is a function of other things, rather than just leadership. Now. in short-hand we call that leadership style, I get that. But I did want to set that as a preface relative to this conversation.
Having said that, I don’t think leadership styles have changed significantly over the period of time of the technological boom.
What I think has happened is the ability to project your style, your leadership mantra and the results that you create has become so much more easy and effective as a result of the technology available.
We are now looking for the Jeff Bezos or the Elon Musk of the world. We worship them in terms of their leadership capabilities and what they have produced (and I’m sure a hundred more that I am doing a disservice to by not mentioning).
Nothing has changed. There used to be that same level of leadership and, dare I say, style in the old days. You could map an Elon Musk to all sorts of old-time, old-school business leaders. The difference is: there wasn’t the outlets for the general populace to be aware of it. Those that worked at Old Co., — the “original Tesla” like Churchill, Rockefeller, King, Lincoln etc.
The gold standard
Take, for example, Henry Ford and Ford motor company back in the day. They who worked with him knew how good he was. They knew his style, but the general population didn’t because there wasn’t the mechanism to distribute the results produced or to catalog and demonstrate and promote the nature of that individual.
The ability of social media, the digital environment, and all the channels that we have now to communicate more effectively to a wider audience without huge cost and expense enables us to have greater visibility on our leaders today.
The rockstars of the day are the technological leaders because those are the rock-star enterprises that have the high growth and, therefore, are the “great leaders.”
Don’t get caught up in publicity
Boring companies also have great leaders. I can think of two companies (which I won’t mention here) in particular, both of which are very boring in what they are doing and how they do it.
But I can tell you that the employees of those businesses will walk on hot coals for their leaders. Because they are great leaders with (to coin the phrase or borrow the phrase) great leadership style that aligns with the people that are there.
It also doesn’t align with the people that aren’t there or the people that used to be there.
Leadership style isn’t one-size-fits-all
Not every style matches every individual. Some people don’t like working for XYZ style. Because it doesn’t suit their style.
It doesn’t mean the leadership style is good or bad. What it means is, that there wasn’t a good match there. People will complain, and that’s normal. Don’t take it personally, and don’t change your style because of one rough exit interview.
I don’t think leadership styles have evolved. I actually think it is more obvious, and easier, to track them and monitor them. It’s easier for them to be promoted and have the results be demonstrated than it was in the past.
I think the underlying principles of leadership are constant.