Researchers seem to be debunking some of the leadership theories that have been studied, argued and promulgated in the twentieth century, where authority and decision making lies mainly with one person.
Leadership guru, Mitch McCrimmon is of the opinion that “the traditional approach to leadership focuses on top-down leadership in large organizations, and is therefore disempowering since it confines leadership to the top”.
New age leadership theorists believe successful leaders empower their staff to participate in decision making, and by allowing them increased control over their daily tasks by delegating.
The age-old question that has been asked about leadership is, “Are leaders born or made?” Bruce Avolio reflects that “Some people are born to move and shake the world. Their blessings: high energy, exceptional intelligence, extreme persistence, self-confidence and a yearning to influence others”.
Eric Garner lends his voice to the debate by adding “some people are born with all the right qualifications but don’t make it. Others are born into very lowly positions and rise to lead millions”.
Yet, another author believes that leaders are made. “The best leaders learn to lead. They come to appreciate the value of candor and trust. They seek to understand and be understood.”
I believe that it is a combination of both. Leadership enthusiast, Wally Bock, also believes that “the one important gene that leaders are born with is intelligence, without which they would not be able to become leaders. Outside of innate intelligence however, comes the learning part of leadership” where intelligence is put to use in both theory and practice.
With the constant and rapid social, environmental and technological changes that are happening in the twenty-first century, it is imperative that leaders continue to learn (increase intelligence) or lose their advantage.
Not only should they inspire learning in themselves, it would also be beneficial to the organization to do the same for their teams through training, coaching and mentoring.
Researchers and columnists are increasingly extolling the benefits of mentoring leaders within organizations. As Noel Tichy puts it, “effective leaders recognize that the ultimate test of leadership is sustained success, which demands the constant cultivation of future leaders”. He offers the following three ways to accomplish this;
Teachable point of view: being able to articulate a defining position for the organization
Living Stories: Using “who I am”, “who we are” and “where are we going” stories as inspiration
Teaching methodology: Finding creative ways to inspire teams.
He also advocates leaders share real stories about themselves with their teams. This approach allows them to see a more personal side of their leader to which they can relate and which helps to establish trust and credibility. Tichy also believes that “the (leader’s) credibility came from living his or her personal ideas and values and bringing it to life through a ‘where we are going’ story”.
He promotes training as a developmental tool that should be widely extended to other than the “field of potential leaders”. He sees training as a combination of teaching and coaching exercises that is better handled internally than externally by management consultants.
Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy’s Approach
Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy offer another approach. They also suggest a three-step approach to mentoring;
Developing a plan: Identifying development needs and crafting a plan on how to achieve them.
Building credibility: By improving expertise and building trust.
Coaching: Creating partnerships and helping followers stick to their plans so they can attain their developmental goals.
Although their approach is more theoretical, they share some similarities with Tichy in that they both agree that trust through credibility and coaching is important in established and developing leaders. They are of the same mind that good leadership hinges on a person’s ideas and values.
They believe people are more likely “to trust leaders whose integrity is strong and who demonstrate their commitment to higher principles through their actions.” They further intimate that failure in leadership can be attributed to mismatched values between leaders and their mentees.
Both management gurus proffer practical techniques but Tichy’s is more hands-on, while Hughes uses a more theoretical approach. That being said both approaches could be successfully combined into a solid leadership program for aspiring leaders.