Which one of these 7 Leaders are you?

If you want to be successful in your job as an L&D professional, you need to include change leadership skills in your skillset as well as facilitating developing these skills in your organisationʼs other leaders. After all, L&D is all about initiating, instituting, inspiring and leading change.

Part of the problem with developing change leadership skills is that there are many recognised leadership types. So the whole thing can be confusing.

The psychologist, Kurt Lewin, developed a leadership styles framework in the 1930s, saying that leaders are:

  • Autocratic – making decisions without consulting their team members, even if their input would be useful;
  • Democratic – including team members in the decision-making process, or
  • Laissez-faire – giving team members freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines.

Fast-forward to 2007, when Eric Flamholtz and Yvonne Randle, in their book, “Growing Pains, set out an entire leadership style matrix.

Recognised leadership types

Among the more commonly identified leadership types are:

  • Adaptive leadership – taking people out of their comfort zones, letting people feel external pressure and exposing conflict.
  • Dispersed leadership — connected with leading a geographically-dispersed team.
  • The hero – leading from the front with determination, vision and independence of mind, relying on their profile-raising skills and personal brand.
  • Visionary leaders – offering a vision of the future, or with a strong story. These tend to be the most memorable leaders but there are signs that todayʼs followers need a credible story that stands up to scrutiny, rather than merely a story thatʼs exciting, inspiring and compelling.
  • The servant – who puts the needs of the team before their own.
  • Transformational leaders – showing integrity, and with the skills to develop a robust, inspiring vision of the future. They motivate people to achieve this, manage its delivery, and build stronger, more successful teams.
  • Transactional leaders — work on the idea that team members agree to obey their leader. So, the leader has a right to “punish” team members if their work doesn’t meet an appropriate standard. This approach clarifies everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Team members whoʼre ambitious or whoʼre motivated by external rewards — including compensation — often thrive. On its own, transactional leadership can be amoral and lead to high staff turnover, since team members can do little to improve their job satisfaction.

Thereʼs also the concept of inner leadership — that is, what goes on inside the leader. On the other hand, outer leadership is about what the leader does. Harmonising outer and inner leadership is important for achieving organisational change successfully.

Combining humility and will

In his book, ‘Good to Greatʼ, Jim Collins discusses why some organisations are great at leadership while others are merely ‘goodʼ. He concludes that all ‘greatʼ organisations have leaders that combine humility and will. These leaders put others — notably their team — first but theyʼre also clear about where the organisation needs to go and are dedicated to getting the organisation there.

By contrast, when organisations are failing, the leaders often blame their teams — but it tends not to occur to them to look at themselves.

After all, introducing and leading change will fail if no one knows why the change is necessary. Leaders may understand why changes are needed but others in the organisation may not. So, itʼs important for leaders to communicate their vision — and to do so effectively — rather than merely assume that other people also understand, and approve, the vision for change.

When it comes to leading change, focusing on the things that arenʼt going well – or quickly — can demotivate those being led. Itʼs also important to take time and effort to emphasise the positive aspects of whatʼs happening — and to celebrate what goes right.


Thereʼs a consensus that all would-be successful leaders — regardless of their leadership style, type and so on – must choose the right action at the right time and “keep a steady eye on the ball.” They must be courageous, self-aware — and must ensure that their team of followers provide consistent support.

Thatʼs easy to write but difficult to achieve consistently. Moreover, leadership means different things to different people — which makes leadership difficult to define and do.

Thereʼs also a difference between theory and practice. You can learn the theory of leadership relatively quickly but that doesnʼt make you a great leader — in the same way that knowing the theory of how to drive a car doesnʼt necessarily make you a great driver.

Consequently, achieving mastery of the leadership skillset requires on-going, long-term development – often including some coaching and mentoring.

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