Leadership -101 The most traditional leadership models practiced today

For centuries, philosophers and researchers from Lao-tzu to Machiavelli have been fascinated with the concept of leadership. Because leadership has been studied and examined under so many critical lenses (Wren 1995), various theories and models have been suggested from which managers, politicians, leaders and citizens can choose.

Interestingly enough, a person’s inner traits and characteristics are often present in their leadership styles. In this post, I offer the most traditional leadership models practiced today. As you examine these styles, take note and see if you can identify yourself with one or more of these models.

The Transactional Leader

A transactional leader manages her organization (or family, colleagues, work environment) by looking at the bottom line and the work that is necessary. To make things happen and foster productivity, the transactional leader will establish a reward and punishment system. Unfortunately, other people’s emotions and well-being are often of little importance to this type of leader. As a result, followership is poor, morale is low and turnaround is often high.

The Transformational Leader

These individuals enjoy working with people. They want to uplift, enable and motivate colleagues and group members. They share their vision and align their actions accordingly. A transformational leader prioritizes the well-being of her subordinates or colleagues, friends, family. For her, people come first. When their needs are met, the work gets done.

The Servant Leader

In line with transformational leadership, servant leadership focuses on the leader acting as a servant first and foremost. In other words, the servant leader enables and empowers others indirectly through her support, motivation and guidance. The servant leader is always in the shadows and focuses on societal well-being. She feels energized when helping others and does not seek power or status; instead, the servant-leader feels fulfilled when she  witnesses the achievements of her followers.

The Situational Leader

The situational leader is practical and to the point. She will evaluate the situation, will decide on the best course of action, and delegate accordingly. In other words, in situations where stress and control are at a high level, the situational leader will step in and take action which often includes reassuring subordinates. When the situation of stress and control are at a low level, the leader will delegate and let subordinates lead. Knowing the differences between circumstances is what makes the situational leader so effective. Understandably, every organization and work environment is different. Some professional environments can absorb more change and live with higher amounts of stress than others. What is considered high stress in one organization may be routine in another. Ultimately, it’s up to the leader to decide.

Food for thought

1. Do you see yourself in any of these leadership models?

2. Additionally, have you ever worked with or for any of these types of leaders? If so, what was the outcome? Was the organization thriving or were employees miserable and wanting to leave?

3. If you are still in the workforce, what is the current leadership trend there?

I hope this post has been informative and of service to you. Feel free to leave a comment and continue the dialogue!


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