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Facts, creativity, teamwork, and rules: understanding leadership styles.

Facts, Creativity, Teamwork, And Rules: Understanding Leadership Styles

More than 1.5 million highly skilled, educated, trained and experienced men and women--managers--have been fired, laid off or retired since 1975. Many of them have been replaced by PCs. Others have been found to be redundant. Still others were replaced because employees have been found to be better self-managers once trained, given freedom and support.

Incompetency, the Peter Principle, and foolishness on the part of company owners may have accounted for a portion of the excessive numbers of management positions that were created during the 60s and 70s The greater portion of management positions have simply been found to be unnecessary in today's businesses, industries, and governments. The primary reasons are: the development of the new electronic tools, and the evergrowing realization that people, Americans most specifically, do not like to be managed and can more effectively manage themselves.

What is needed today more than ever before in the United States, especially in engineering, technology and manufacturing are leaders. Our country's companies, corporations and organizations have spent millions of dollars on training leadership during the past twenty-five years. Unfortunately, the results have not been positive or extensive enough to satisfy the growing needs of effective leaders.

Five questions are often asked in leadership training programs:

* Are leaders born?

* Are leaders made?

* Do situations make leaders?

* Is there more than one way to lead?

* Are leaders different?

The answers can be yes to all, no to all or perhaps any combination of yes and no answers. If there is one true answer, it is "it depends."

The most significant issue to leadership is that leaders need to discover their most natural and appropriate leadership style or styles in order to become effective leaders. Second, leaders need to understand their followers in order to match an appropriate style to the followers' needs. Thirdly, followers need to understand their leader's style in order for the organization to be successful over time.

Not all leaders, natural or trained, can be truly effective with all groups. One of the primary myths of the 60s and 70s concerning management was that "a good manager can manage any organization effectively." The history of failures in American business and industry during that period clearly show the fallacy of that myth.

All people can be leaders. Can they be leaders of the same organizations or groups of people? Not necessarily. Can they be successful in the same industries, businesses or professions? Not necessarily. Can they be successful in the same companies, organizations? Not necessarily. Can they be successful over and over, or continuously? Not necessarily.

Yet, at the same time, "All human beings can be leaders." Leaders of themselves, their work, the work of small, medium, or large groups, entire companies, or countries. Besides the factors of 1) timing, 2) follower willingness to be lead, 3) situation, and 4) luck, the matching of natural, learned, or acquired leadership style to the group and situation is the major factor.

What may be your most natural leadership style? That is what we will explore in the remainder of this article. There are at least four separate cognitive-based approaches to leadership:

* Meditative

* Intuitive

* Negotiative

* Directive

First, take a few minutes to answer the questions on the left (you may photocopy the page first). Answer the nine questions, choosing only one answer each. Choose the single answer each time that comes closest to the way you would answer it with regard to the time you spend on the job--not in any other aspect of your daily life. Once you have completed all nine questions, transfer your answers to the scoring grid below the questions.

Add up each column and total it at the bottom. Note that question 2 is worth three points, and that question 6 is worth two points. All others are worth one point. The total of all the columns should be 12. Transfer the total of each column to its corresponding quadrant on the right. (If, for example, the total of the "M" column is 9, enter that number in the quadrant marked "M.")

Look at the four numbers on the graph and circle the highest pair of two scores (you may have more than one identical highest score if you have any matching numbers.

Based upon research with over 37,000 people representing many occupations, businesses, industries and professions, generally 2/3 have styles that are combinations of two of the four, 1/6 have styles that are predominantly represented by only one of the four, and 1/6 have styles that are a mixture of three or four of the four. Also, some people have multiple styles depending upon the situation, the group size, and the people within the groups.

Read the basic description of your highest score first. If it matches another, read both. Read them to see if you agree with the basic description of your apparent chosen leadership style.

Often, leadership styles discovered using the mind design questionnaire are not an individual's natural style, but rather the one required by controlling forces of an organization, a work environment or a situation. Research has shown that the use of the most natural style will produce the greatest results.

Now read the style that matches your lowest style. For many people this is a zero. See if it describes a leadership style you are not comfortable with or greatly dislike or oppose.

Leaders experience burnout primarily due to a mismatch of their styles to their followers and the demands of the situation or challenge.


This leadership style generally relies predominantly upon facts, logic, and rationale analysis. The leader chooses a single goal or target that all efforts are centered upon. Followers are assigned tasks, responsibility, authority and accountability based upon their capabilities and proven records. Time is not a major issue to this leader on projects unless there are specific deadlines to be met. This leader commits total efforts to the project at hand, often avoiding administrative duties.


This leadership style generally relies predominantly upon creativeness, innovation, ingenuity, feelings and hunches. The leader chooses many missions to work on simultaneously often moving from one to another dependent upon their motivation at the moment. Once committed to a mission this leader charges ahead looking for the ideal solution from multiple answers or possibilities. Often their missions are causes. When members of their groups/teams illustrate equal commitment to the cause they will relinquish control. If the commitment wains they will immediately will take control back. Often charisma is strong tool of this leader. Time is often a problem for this leader. Starting projects late is often done by this leader. Administrative duties are generally avoided.


This leadership style generally relies predominantly upon teamwork and commitment of all members of the same selected goal or goals. Harmony among the members is important to this leader. Coaching

and counseling are strong tools for this leader. Concern over acceptance of a goal or project can be detrimental to the success of this leader. Generally this leader will rely heavily upon the ideas of the team/group members versus making their own. Time can be a problem, depending on the importance of deadlines. Missed deadlines can be a recurring problem for this leader. Administrative duties are shared or avoided.


This leadership style generally relies upon schedules, rules, procedures, and standards to complete one project at a time, step-by-step. They prefer to control the work of others systematically, as they manage resources and time analysis. The leader prefers to take on or be assigned a single goal or target that is requested by a higher authority. Time and resource management and control for this leader is no problem. They establish priorities and schedule their time and the time of their followers in accordance with the time and resources available. Administrative duties are handled by the leader.

Now that you have had a chance to review the characteristics of the style that tends to fit you best and the one that would not work for you, your followers are the next issue. Effective leadership styles generally match the basic styles of the followers.

Occasionally the most successful leader is one who's leadership style greatly contrasts with the styles of the followers (M versus N, N versus M, I versus D, and D versus I) and is extremely focused in a specific style.

When over 2,000 employees, over a two-year period, were asked to choose which style or combined style would they prefer to work for or with they predominantly chose a M-N combination, not an N-M. Leaders with various leadership styles have become world-famous. Leaders with various leadership styles have at the same time become disastrous failures.

Often leaders change their styles because of changes in:

* Followers.

* Situations.

* Problem Demands.

* Personal Life.

* Follower Demands.

* Personal Development.

* Numbers of Followers.

* Growth of Followers

It is easier for leaders to change their styles than to expect followers to change to suit the leader's style. Whatever your "most natural" leadership style, you have choices:

* Accept it.

* Strengthen it.

* Add to it.

* Vary it.

* Change it (last choice).

Be the most "natural" leader you can be and watch your successes begin to add up. If and when you experience a setback, learn from it--and modify your style the next time.

Robert Alan Black, Ph.D., is an Athens, Georgia-based practicing business consultant specializing in leadership, communication, teamwork, and creativity. Before becoming a business consultant, he had worked as a practicing architect, a graphics/signage designer, college professor, and television news writer and editor. He has worked with a variety of large and small companies in manufacturing, service, and government.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Institute of Industrial Engineers, Inc. (IIE)
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Author:Black, Robert Alan
Publication:Industrial Management
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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