Monday, April 26, 2010
What kind of leadership skills are we talking about?
These days there sure is a lot of focus on developing leadership skills. But what kind of skills are leadership skills? Skills are simply a capacity to do something well. It is an action one takes that accomplishes something. Identifying leadership skills depends on one's understanding of leadership.
If leadership is understood as the exercise of authority, getting others to do what "the leader" wants, then these skills will be different from the skills derived from an understanding of leadership that is more systemic and influence based.
As a practitioner and educator in leadership, I have come to make sense of leadership in terms of various world-views. In other words, different leadership theories and perspectives reflect different world-views people hold. World-views are a dimension of human consciousness and function as large cognitive structures which people, individually and collectively, make sense of the world and guide their actions in it.
Leadership theories that are individualistic, authority-based, focused on quantifiable, predetermined results, which followed from predetermined organizational objectives fit into a particular world-view. Joseph Rost (1991) refers to this as an industrial paradigm of leadership and Marion and Uhl-Bien (2007) refer to this perspective of leadership in terms of a bureaucratic paradigm of leadership.
Leadership theories that are more systemic and collaborative in nature, are more influence and relationship based, focused more on making progress in the direction of mutually derived purposes, while responsive to the dynamic and complex nature of organizational life, are part of a different world-view. Referred to by Rost (1991) as a post-industrial paradigm of leadership and by Marion and Uhl-Bien (2007) as a complexity paradigm of leadership, this world-view tends to be more a more complex world-view.
These two world-views outlined are not mutually exclusive, the more complex includes yet transcends, the less complex. An understanding and practice in a more complex world-view of leadership allow one to flex into less complex one when needed.
Back to leadership skills, it follows that different world-views of leadership require different kinds of leadership skills. So what do you think these are? What kind of skills are part of the industrial or bureaucratic paradigm, and which are needed for a post-industrial or complexity paradigm?