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Understand What Is Leadership

This article aims at clarifying various leadership approaches to assist understanding. We explain the difference between management and leadership, list some of the interpersonal influence technics, and finish with a review of the different leadership approaches or models.

Leadership is such a hot topic nowadays, and many books and articles are dedicated to the subject. A vast amount of information is available, and it appears to be a jungle of opinions as everyone has a different perspective. The many leadership theories all turn around a focus or an angle that slightly differ from one another. Some look at qualities or traits which characterize great leaders, others consider the situation, the behaviors or what a leaders shall do within an organization.

This newsletter aims at clarifying various approaches to assist readers’ understanding of the different perspectives. We start by explaining the differences between management and leadership; we then list some of the interpersonal influence technics, and finish with a review of the different leadership approaches or models. This newsletter does not pretend to be neither exhaustive nor authoritative.

Management vs leadership

Management and leadership are used by many interchangeably. There is, however, a major difference between the two. Both leaders and managers are striving to accomplish organizational goals efficiently but each try to achieve these goals from different platforms.

Managers usually use their authority to achieve company goals. Their authority actually rest with the legal status of their position, employees complying based on the contractual arrangement they have with the organization.

Leaders influence employees to achieve company goals. Leading is basically helping people achieve a shared vision, not telling people what to do. They make their employees feel that what they do will benefit them as much as the company. Leadership is basically the ability to create a world to which people want to belong. Leaders need to establish a personal connection with their employees and understand their needs, expectations and possibilities. Great leaders know their employees well enough to tap the personal, not just the professional.

Mastering the art of influence is therefore a key leadership component. Leaders can be at every level of an organization, not necessarily at the top.

Interpersonal influence tactics

Successful leaders skillfully use different technics under different situations to change behaviors, opinions, attitudes, goals, needs and/or values.

First the situation must be diagnosed to determine if a soft pull or a hard push technic would be appropriate. The difference lies in how much freedom a technic leaves the person in question to decide either to yield or to resist the influence attempt. Hard push technics leave individuals less freedom than soft pull ones. Push technics tend to get short-term results, while pull technics garner support rather than compliance. Below here is a definition for the most common technics and their potential use.

Hard/Push methods: can be used when a negative behavior must cease immediately like for instance rumors making.

Pressure: includes demands, threats and other forms of intimidation to convince a person to comply with a request or to support a proposal. To force or pressure someone to act in a certain way undermines trust and causes resentment and various other negative emotions in people. The more trust there is within a relationship, the more room you have.

Legitimating: seeks to persuade others that the request is something they should comply with given their situation or position. You demonstrate that the request you have is a legitimate one and that you have a reasonable authority to do so. This wouldn’t be necessary for downward influence so the most common use would be lateral influence.

Coalition: seeks the aid of others to persuade them to do something or uses the support of others as an argument for them to agree. Building a coalition can be effective if you also choose to use rational persuasion and are directing your influence upward and need to prove feasibility. It can also be effective if you need to influence a large amount of people individually and you want to use personal appeal of the coalition.

Exchange: makes explicit or implicit promise that others will receive rewards or tangible benefits if they comply with a request. It is best used in an equal power relationship. Note that this will not work well on your boss. A more subtle way is to provide value, and eventually, the desire for reciprocation might occur.

Ingratiating: seeks to get others in a good mood or to praise them before asking them to do something. Once again, this usually doesn’t work on your boss, but it can be quite effective on your co-workers, peers, and subordinates.

Soft/Pull methods : can be used when you need support, for instance when you want someone to willingly change role

Rational Persuasion: uses logical arguments and factual evidence to persuade others that a proposal or request is viable and likely to result in task objectives. This method is most often used upward, such as making the case for the feasibility of a certain initiative to your boss or to the Board.

Personal Appeals: seeks others’ compliance to a request by asking a favor or relying on interpersonal relationships to influence their behavior. It builds and strengthens relationships. The more and profound relationships you have, the wider is your influence.

Inspirational Appeals: makes an emotional request or proposal that arouses enthusiasm by appealing to other’s values and ideals, or by increasing their confidence that they can succeed. For instance when a new CEO gain support and sparks enthusiasm for major changes by communicating his vision for future success. Inspiration usually requires modeling own behavior to set the example for others to follow.

Consultation: seeks others’ participation in making a decision or planning how to implement a proposed policy, strategy or change. Consultation works because when someone provides input, they become more committed to the initiative. They feel involved and are more intrinsically motivated to take action that will ensure success.

Collaboration: seeks to offer assistance rather than seeking advice like for consultation. This is most often used downward or laterally when one wants to convince someone to do something that is difficult or non-routine. You gain their commitment to complete a certain task and in support, you offer direct help or provide resources.

Check our exercise at the end of this newsletter to better understand which technic to use for different situation.

Leadership models

Theoretical models of effective leadership have developed by researchers and thinkers to assist comprehension and leaders development. This section briefly summarizes the main types of leadership models.

Trait based approach: These models focus on identifying the traits or qualities of successful leaders. Many articles use this approach, discussing the ideal personality profile of an effective leader. The challenge with this approach is that no shortlist of traits has been agreed, and the model is actually more useful for selecting leaders than developing them.

Behavioral approach: These models concentrate on the most effective behaviors of a leader. Some theories classify leadership behaviors based on the leaders concern for tasks and people. Others focus on how to change an employee behavior, for instance, by using positive reinforcement to motivate the person to change. Whereas leaders should indeed consider the balance between tasks and concern for people, the approach may not suit all circumstances. Leaders’ behavioral patterns might also be restricted by their hidden limiting beliefs that tend to persist despite training.

Situational or contingency approach: These models are based on the idea that the leader’s actions should vary according to the circumstances, the leadership methods change according to the situation in which the leader is leading. One popular model is the situational leadership where leaders shall adjust their style (telling, selling, participating, and delegating) based on the competence and commitment of the employee. This is a sensible approach to train new leaders to learn to recognize the different circumstances and practice the right style. However some leaders might be restricted by old habits and hidden limiting beliefs to use the different styles.

Functional approach: These models focus on what the leader has to do to contribute to the organization effectiveness. The needs of individuals and teams must be considered to deliver the tasks. Five broad functions have been observed: environmental monitoring, organizing activities, teaching and coaching, motivating, and intervening. One shortcoming of this approach is the lack of a shared vision which might make it more like a management approach than leadership.

The integrated approach: This model integrates the thinking behind the four other leadership models sub-groups, while also addressing the leader’s inner psychology. This is one of the latest theories introduces by James Scouller in 2011.

The Integrated Psychological theory of leadership is an attempt to integrate the strengths of the older theories while addressing their limitations by introducing a new element – the need for leaders to develop their leadership presence, attitude toward others and behavioral flexibility by practicing psychological mastery.

For James Scouller Leadership is a process that involves making sure there is leadership. This means the leader does not always have to lead from the front, he or she can delegate, or share part of their responsibility for leadership.

However, the leader must make sure there is leadership in the four following dimensions:
1. Motivating future or purpose (Vision)
2. Task and results (Tasks)
3. Upholding group spirit and standards (Team)
4. Attention to individuals (Individuals)

Scouller’s main idea is that for leaders to be effective in all four dimensions, they must work on three Leadership levels simultaneously:
Public Leadership: an outer or behavioral level. It covers dimensions 1, 2 and 3 (Purpose, Task, Group Unity)
Private Leadership: another outer or behavioral level. It covers dimensions 2 and 4 (Task, Individuals)
Personal Leadership: an inner level. It covers all four dimensions (Purpose, Task, Group Unity, Individuals)

Scouller explains that Personal Leadership affects all four dimensions by working on the source of a leader’s effectiveness: their leadership presence, technical know-how, skill, attitude to other people, and psychological self-mastery.

Self-mastery is the key to a person’s leadership presence and flexibility.
Scouller asserts that self-mastery is the key to developing not only leadership presence and attitude towards others, but also letting you connect with your values, allowing the authentic you to flow, thus enabling you to effectively serve an organisation.

Our previous newsletters on emotional intelligence, neuroplasticity, or people main drivers assist leaders’ self-transformation and psychological mastery.

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