I can’t begin to recount how many books and articles I have read on leadership over the years. I have been drawn to the importance of leadership since I started in ministry, seeing the importance of leadership in faith settings. What I have found is that just about every book and article on leadership tackles leadership style. There are many different opinions on the types of styles a great leader should have. At its core, leadership style is very subjective. I have found that most styles mirror the personality, background, experience and life history of the leader, as a result it makes it very hard to pigeonhole everyone into one or two styles of effective leadership. Author Peter Drucker is known for saying; “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”
I have been around a lot of leaders. I have been led by them, influenced by them and even had the opportunity to lead right beside them, what I have found is most leaders fit into one of three categories.
- Those Who React. Most leaders are able to identify issues, areas for improvement or places of needed recovery. Many times, though, leaders have a tendency to react to the issue at hand. Reaction becomes harmful, for organizations, because reaction is often led by emotion. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Reactionary leadership is not sustainable. Great leaders take time to pause and reflect on the situation at hand. They devise a strategy by seeing all possible outcomes and situations. In sports coaches teach athletes to “read and react” in many game time situations. This is a great lesson for all leaders, instead of reacting to everything, take time out to read the situation, climate of the culture, the repercussions and then react with the best possible solutions.
- Those Who Respond. This category is not much different than the previous one. Leaders who lead from a response mindset are usually not creative or really leading at all. They become followers to the circumstances and this leads to reaction. “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.” – Herbert Swope. Leaders who only respond usually do so to please others or to avoid conflict and failure. The desire to fail on the way to reaching a bigger goal is an untold secret to success. Failure means things are being attempted and tested, things that are not normal, things that are risky. It is from risk not responding that innovation is born.
- Those Who Initiate. The most successful organizations are filled with leaders who are initiators and not reactors or responders. Great leaders don’t let things happen that make things happen. I have this “gift”, well that’s what I call it, to recognize when something is sinking in mediocrity. I like to step in an initiate change, ideas, and sometimes leadership. Many people do not like this “gift” they see it as pushy or invasive into their world. The reality is people who think this way enjoy the status quo and most of their leadership is reactionary and responsive. They are either ill-equipped or lack the desire to initiate and seek innovative solutions. Someone once said, “To be a good leader, you sometimes need to go down the untraveled path. Being bold in the face of uncertainty will help give your team courage and motivate them to keep striving when the going gets tough.”
As leader always remember it is you who must forge the path toward greatness. Leaders who do this initiate risk, count the cost and paint a picture that all can follow.