By Mark Scullard, director of research, and Jeffrey Sugerman, president and CEO, Inscape Publishing
In our May-June 2011 print article, we discussed what people want from their leaders. As part of a 360-degree assessment, we gave 16,619 participants—or raters—the chance to give feedback on what leadership practices their leaders should do more often. The three most common requests for leaders were:
As we mentioned in the print article, rater requests were diverse, so while leaders should take note of the list above, development needs do vary from person to person. Short of completing a 360, how is an individual leader supposed to know what he or she most needs to work on? The first step is to bring personality into the equation—for them to ask, “What kind of leader am I?”
A Personalized Model
In “The 8 Dimensions of Leadership” (Berrett-Koehler, 2011), we introduce a simple model to help leaders tackle their own development in a personalized, strategic manner. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for better leadership, and leaders will be more successful in their development efforts if they can understand what makes them tick and identify the leadership “blind spots” associated with their style.
The model includes eight dimensions of leadership: Pioneering, Energizing, Affirming, Inclusive, Humble, Deliberate, Resolute, and Commanding. Leaders naturally gravitate toward one of these dimensions—what we call their “default setting” or primary leadership dimension. Take a moment to discover your own leadership style by reading the brief descriptions of the eight dimensions below. Chances are good that one or two of them will resonate with you. Or, to get a more accurate read on your primary leadership dimension, take our free assessment at www.8dimensionsofleadership.com.
The Pioneering Leader
Pioneering leaders tend to be adventurous, dynamic, and charismatic. Their optimistic and persuasive style often inspires others to join their efforts, and because they’re good at making connections, they’re often able to leverage relationships to help reach their ambitious goals. They tend to be extremely action-oriented, and possibly impulsive at times. Because they thrive on exciting breakthroughs, they may jump on new opportunities without taking the time to consider the impact on others.
The Energizing Leader
Energizing leaders tend to be spontaneous, outgoing, and encouraging. They’re often enthusiastic about new opportunities and unafraid of running with exciting new ideas. Because these leaders thrive on variety, they often generate more ideas than they’re able to implement. They tend to be more collaborative than other fast-paced leaders, and they may struggle to complete solitary tasks that offer little opportunity for interaction. These leaders are eager to connect with others who can help them realize their big-picture vision, but between their flurries of activity, they may drop the ball when it comes to specifics and follow-through.
The Affirming Leader
Affirming leaders are friendly, approachable, and positive. They eagerly acknowledge others’ contributions, which in turn breeds loyalty among their colleagues. Because they have a need for harmony, they work hard to create a positive environment where everyone can work in peace, free of fear and conflict. Affirming leaders tend to be more easygoing and don’t have the fast-paced style of the energizing leader, nor do they have the same degree of caution seen in the inclusive leader. But because they want to make others feel comfortable, they may fail to deliver constructive feedback to others.
The Inclusive Leader
Inclusive leaders tend to be diplomatic, accepting, and patient. They’re most comfortable in a stable environment where they can work steadily toward their goals, so they’re often wary of ideas that would require change. Because these leaders want to be seen as dependable, they often prefer to work at a methodical pace to ensure they have time to address specifics. They tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, and this sometimes can cause them to overestimate others’ abilities. They’re careful to include others in meaningful dialogue before moving ahead with major decisions, but because they often go out of their way to accommodate everyone, they may struggle to make timely decisions.
The Humble Leader
Humble leaders tend to be soft-spoken, modest, and precise. Their methodical and consistent style often models follow-through and diligence in dealings with others. Because they’re fair and practical, they can often discern what particular systems and structures would meet other people’s needs. However, they tend to be so cautious that they may hinder spontaneity or creativity. Because they want to maintain a stable environment, humble leaders remain wary of change and often favor standard operating procedures over new and innovative ways of doing things.
The Deliberate Leader
Deliberate leaders tend to be systematic, cautious, and analytical. Because ensuring accuracy is vitally important to them, they tend to work at a moderate pace. They want to be seen as experts, so they’re often drawn to projects and roles where they can shape processes to meet their high standards. However, they tend to be detached and unemotional, and they often prefer to work independently. Also, because they want to be seen as competent, they may become defensive if people challenge their methods or ideas.
The Resolute Leader
Resolute leaders tend to be challenging, determined, and rational. They set high standards for themselves and others and may have little patience for seemingly inefficient people. They tend to be blunt, and they aren’t afraid to speak up when they see problems with plans or methods, even if it means stepping on some toes. Not only do they want to get efficient results, but they want those results to be of the utmost quality. Because these leaders want to be seen as highly competent, they may lose their patience with people or situations they feel are standing in their way.
The Commanding Leader
Commanding leaders tend to be competitive, driven, and assertive. They have such a natural take-charge presence that others often look to them for leadership. And because they want to reach their goals as quickly as possible, they tend to create a sense of urgency for themselves and others. They’re often challenging and demanding, and they may be less concerned with social niceties. Since they’re extremely motivated by results, they may show little regard for other people’s needs and feelings.
Making Leadership Development About the Individual
Once you—or the leaders you work with—identify your primary leadership dimension, you can embark on a personalized experience of examining the psychological drivers that are typical of your style. For example, inclusive leaders have a desire to internalize problems, while commanding leaders have an underlying disgust for “soft” emotions. Two very different frames of mind, and yet both can have a negative impact on leadership effectiveness.
By getting at the heart of what drives you as a leader, you’ll be better prepared to take the next step—learning valuable lessons from leaders whose styles differ from your own. Our research shows that those leaders who are seen as most effective not only play to their strengths, but they learn to reach beyond their behavioral comfort zones. In essence, they learn lessons from the other seven dimensions.
We don’t expect that leaders should be able to master all eight dimensions at once. Superhuman efforts are not required to make meaningful change. Rather, we recommend that leaders take careful stock of their current goals, their organizational culture, and the feedback they receive from others. With this information—or with the help of our online assessment—they can identify the two dimensions that they most need to work on right now. The goal is to lead like you,only better!
Mark Scullard is the director of research at Inscape Publishing, a provider of training materials for the corporate market. He has more than a decade of research and data analysis experience in the development of psychological evaluation tools and methods. Scullard received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Minnesota, with a supporting program in statistics.
Jeffrey Sugerman is the president and CEO of Inscape Publishing. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior management, marketing, and business development in the technology, training, and publishing industries. Sugerman holds doctorate and master’s degrees in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northwestern University.
Scullard and Sugerman are the co-authors of the recently released Berrett-Koehler title, “The 8 Dimensions of Leadership: DiSC Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader.”