Leadership is a topic which is high on the agenda for most organisations. The one thing we are not short of is leadership models and advice.
The critical question is “are any of these models better than others – or just newer?”
All the models have appeal and most seem to contribute something to our understanding of leadership.. But there is very little solid objective evidence to support one particular picture of leadership style and behavior.
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In 2008 a study involving 1500 people in leadership positions was carried out by AQR International under the supervision of Professor Peter Clough, Head of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The results were interesting. The study found that almost all leadership models were based on one or more of 6 scales or components. The scales reflect aspects of leadership style. Analysis showed that leadership style is situational. Different profiles might work better in different situations.
The scales emerged as:
Task v. Person
This reflects and measures the extent which the individual is orientated towards meeting the needs of the task or is concerned with the needs of individuals.
Flexible v. Dogmatic
Someone at the Dogmatic end of the scale has a strong belief that “they know how things should be done around here”. At the other end of the scale a Flexible style is one where the individual is open to ideas and suggestions.
De-Centralized v. Centralized
Someone who adopts a Centralized style is someone who prefers that everything goes through them. They may have a less mature group to work with and there is need for strong guidance..
Reward v. Punishment
High Reward indicates that the leader is prepared to reward and recognize acceptable and high performance.
Focus on Punishment suggests that the prevailing style is to accept good or high performance as the norm (“that’s what I pay the person for already”)
The Means v. The End
A Leader whose style is focused on the End is someone for whom the result matters more than anything.
Someone who is focused on the Means is someone who is concerned about how the goal is achieved and will adopt standards & values to ensure that it is done properly.
Structured v. Organic
The Organic style is one where leadership seems to come naturally in some way. The Structured style is one where leadership is learned more formally. It is drawn from education, models or training.
Most definitions of leadership focus on two themes. Leadership is about performance (particularly improving performance) and about achieving this through followers.
Further analysis revealed that there were also 3 over-arching relationships. These described 3 core competencies which, again, are common to most leadership models:
Determination to Deliver
The extent to which there is a single minded determination to achieve. Leaders who scored high here appear to see what is promised as an over-riding requirement which leads to success and the feeling of success. This highly focused person can make uncomfortable people who don’t respond quickly enough. It is to do with the attainment of the task and not with a particular view about people.
Engaging with Individuals
The extent to which there is focus on enhancing the capability, confidence and commitment of individuals to enable them to contribute to the organisation and to fulfill themselves.
Engaging with Teams
The extent to which there is focus on and attention given to harnessing all the potential in an organisation. The emphasis here is on cross functional team working – creating the sense that the whole organisation is “one team”.
An important by product of the work carried out has led to the development of a questionnaire (ILM72) which measures individuals (and organisations) in terms of the six specific scales (style) and the 3 global scales.
The objective was not to identify a new leadership model. It was primarily focused on tidying up what we already know and to create an accessible picture for those involved in leadership development.