I always think it’s interesting when you hear magicians say, “Think of a card, any card.” They know which card you’re going to select — they have tricks up their sleeves (sometimes, literally) to bring you back to that card.
Well, with that in mind, “Think of a leader, any leader.”
Please bring to mind a leader you’ve worked with in the past or presently. This person may be a leader in the workplace or perhaps you serve alongside this person in a voluntary capacity. How would you describe their style of leadership? Would you say they’re autocratic, democratic or as the French would say, “laissez-faire” (maybe a bit too laid back)?
From your experience, would you say one style is better than another? I mean, is a democratic leadership style always the best? I don’t think so. If there’s an emergency, I’d rather a leader step up and command us what to do and what not to do. Is an autocratic leadership always the best then? I don’t think so. I’ve worked for them and they can suck the energy out of people. Talented individuals won’t hang around for long if they’re just talked at and their ideas are never listened to.
So, is it best to be a laissez-faire leader, you know abdicate all responsibility and just let the troops govern themselves? Sometimes maybe, but most times not. Do you remember the 1954 novel, ‘Lord of the Flies’ by British author, William Golding? The author tells an interesting allegoric tale of a leaderless team.
The conclusion I’ve come to, after having worked as an employee, (eventually to a fairly senior level of leadership) for about 18 years and now doing what we do, and having worked with Clients all over the globe — is that the best form of leadership is servant leadership.
Servant leadership does not mean you’re a walk-over though — yes, you listen to others; yes you focus on bringing the best out of others; yes you use your explicit authority to clear the path for your people to excel; yes you could say you turn the pyramid upside-down BUT you STILL hold people accountable in the ways agreed. Some of the most challenging bosses I’ve ever worked with, were in hindsight servant-leaders.
So, “Pick a card, any card” – it’ll get you to the destination the magician wants you to go to anyways. I say, be a servant leader as you’ll find it will lead you to be autocratic sometimes, democratic sometimes and even a little French sometimes with a bit of “laissez-faire”.