Wikipedia defines leadership in the following ways…

Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged. Alan Keith of Genentech states that, “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” According to Ken “SKC” Ogbonnia, “effective leadership is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals.”

In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell sums up his definition of leadership as “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”  In their book Launching a Leadership Revolution, Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward define leadership as “Character in Motion”.  Leadership has also been articulated as service, power, the ability to empower and in many more iterations.  The truth is that leadership is all of these things.

When thinking about what leadership is at a high level, several leadership types, models, modes and theories emerge and are worth understanding in some detail in order to frame our leadership conversations.


Situational Leadership

Both Paul Hersey and top 5 leadership guru Ken Blanchard have written extensively on the Situational Leadership Theory.  The basic tenant is that the best or most effective style of leadership is “task-relevant” and successful leaders adapt their leadership to the maturity of the individual or group they are leading.

This is so critical in any organization or team and is why the best leaders are capable of delivering a message that impacts followers at varying levels of maturity.  It is also why the best leaders focus on developing other leaders to create leverage and the ability for one-on-one mentoring / relationship building to take place at various levels within the organization or team.


Transactional Leadership

This type of leadership described by both Max Weber and Bernard Bass is a type of leadership that lends itself more towards the management side of the spectrum.  Bass puts it best with this quote “…pursues a cost benefit, economic exchange to meet subordinates current material and psychic needs in return for contracted services rendered by the subordinate.”  Transactional leaders are often put into a position where followers are obligated to act such as in government, the military, schools, etc.

Transactional Leadership on the surface may seem very much like management, however when the position of “authority” is earned it is a much needed style when motivation is simply not enough to help the follower along the path.  Giving the follower(s) specific tasks and actions is almost always required as maturity, confidence and commitment develops.

Functional Leadership

This model of leadership focuses on how and not who.   Leadership is distributed and behaviors are examined as they guide the organization or team towards the common goal.  This occurs in many organizations when diverse skills sets are required in order for decisions and opinions to emerge that will help accomplish the tasks necessary to achieve the goal.  John Adair’s Action Centered Leadership or “three circles” model has largely influenced Functional Leadership and defines leadership function as meeting needs in three distinct areas – task, team and individual.

Functional Leadership of course is the synergy that is required in order for any organization to have the well roundedness required for massive success.  No single leader is good enough alone and will require a team of people acting in the leadership collective in order to enact big change with many people.


Organizational Leadership

Charisma is not as important as institutional experience and competence in this type of leadership.  Organizational leadership is all about bureaucratic management.  Like transactional leadership, we find this type of leadership in organizations where a rigid bureaucratic system has been established.  The idea here is to create a smoothly functioning organization by setting direction, performance management and consistently driving change.

Organizational Leadership is most commonly found in corporate America and is even offered as an alternate type of degree to rival an MBA.  Organizational Leadership may seem to lack the zest we normally associate with inspirational leadership however it has proven to be an effective way of solving problems and systemizing the leadership process within an organization.  Systemized processes are required for duplication, speed and wide-spread understanding.



Transformational Leadership

According to Wikipedia… “Transformational leadership is defined as a leadership approach that causes change in individuals and social systems. In its ideal form, it creates valuable and positive change in the followers with the end goal of developing followers into leaders. Enacted in its authentic form, transformational leadership enhances the motivation, morale and performance of his followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the mission and the collective identity of the organization; being a role model for followers that inspires them; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that optimize their performance.”

Last and by far the most powerful, Transformational Leadership is the leadership that leadership lovers love to lead for.  It is what inspires passion, desire, dreams, vision and much more.  This type of leadership while following more on the art side of leadership becomes the change mechanism by which underdogs can win championships and nations can become free.  It is what one feels in a roaring crowd, stirring movie and by the end of a NIKE commercial.  Although many leaders may define their leadership lives by the transformational style.  Truly great leaders understand all of the leadership types and implement them effectively when and where necessary.


How can I be a leader?  What does this mean to me?

Some may say, “How can I be a leader… I am not the head of an organization, a sports team or even over a household.”  The truth is that you are leading when you set a purpose in your life and go out and set an example based on principles.  The better one understands the concepts of leadership, various types of leadership and ways to implement them, they will be better equipped to empower more people and further themselves as a leader.


How do you define Leadership?

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