COMMON PROBLEMS FACING TODAY’S LEADER
In today’s fast-paced and turbulent environment, as a leader you struggle with the demands and burdens of assuming the mantle of leadership. You truly want to be a dedicated and effective leader, but you feel on the verge of burn-out as you face ongoing challenges which never seem to end. Your employees don’t seem as motivated, they’ve lost their commitment to the larger vision, and they’re not as productive as you’d like them to be. You’re also tired of putting out fires and wish people would stop complaining, and just do their work.
And to make matters worse, you often feel isolated and believe that nobody really appreciates what you’re going through. You ask yourself – who can I trust to share my burdens with? Where can I go for help to turn things around?
If you can relate to these issues, then I have a provocative question for you: Have you ever considered that your basic assumptions about leadership may be contributing to your struggles?
Let’s examine some current leadership models and their limitations, and then propose a model that more effectively addresses the common problems confronting today’s leader.
CURRENT LEADERSHIP MODELS
Our culture has no shortage of leadership theories and models. There is charismatic leadership, situational leadership, and transformational leadership to name only a few. Each theory has its own focus as to what makes for an effective leader, whether it be the sheer appeal of one’s personality, the context in which leadership occurs, or the needs of the organization. In effect, they all attempt to answer the question: What leadership style must a leader adopt in order to maximize his or her effectiveness with followers? However, leadership style is really not the most fundamental issue to consider. Effective leadership has more to do with one’s intentions or motives for leading. Put succinctly, the question is: Whose interests are you ultimately serving as a leader? How you answer this question determines not only your effectiveness as a leader but also the success of your organization.
THREE TYPES OF LEADERSHIP:
If your honest answer to the above question is: “I’m really serving my own interests,” then you’ve likely adopted our culture’s prevalent value system in which power, status, and/or wealth are the primary motivators driving one’s leadership.
A leader who embraces this model of leadership is known as the autocratic leader (OLAGroup.com). This type of leader uses power to coerce followers into complying with his or her own needs. In effect, the autocratic leader is a dictator who treats followers as servants. Autocratic leaders de-value and even abuse their followers which results in devastating consequences for the organization such as loss of trust, low morale, decreased productivity, suspiciousness, and fear.
We’ve all heard stories of leaders who abuse their power and whose organizations suffer tremendous hardship as a result. Enron, WorldCom, and Arthur Anderson are just three examples of blatant abuses of power. Autocratic-led organizations usually experience high turnover rates because workers do not feel valued or appreciated for their efforts, and they eventually burn out and leave.
There is another type of leadership which is less toxic but more common in today’s organizations. According to extensive research conducted by Dr. Jim Laub, Professor of Leadership Studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, paternalistic leaders are those who view themselves as parents and their followers as children. They tend to place the needs of the organization above the needs of their employees.
Paternalistic leaders can be either nurturing or critical but what they share in common is their belief that followers are not truly adult partners in the leader-follower relationship. This type of relationship results in mere compliance rather than true internal motivation. Although willing to delegate responsibility for some tasks, paternalistic leaders retain the right to make the most important decisions for the organization. Laub’s research (OLAGroup.com) has revealed that most of today’s organizations are paternalistic in their leadership practices.
The third type of leadership is known as servant leadership. The term, initially coined by Robert Greenleaf, refers to placing the legitimate needs of followers above one’s own self-interest. Servant leaders treat their followers as adults and are willing to collaborate, share their power, and commit themselves to others’ growth and development. They are also willing to grant decision-making authority to followers in order to foster a deep sense of commitment and investment in the organization. Furthermore, servant leaders value and seek to foster a strong sense of community among all stakeholders within the organization.
Character development is also a priority for servant leaders as they seek to display honesty, integrity, humility, authenticity, and accountability in their personal and work relationships. They are willing to take risks to stand by their convictions and muster the needed courage to “do the right thing.”