Many years ago in business school, I learned of four different types of leaders. Each leadership type was connected with a particular market environment and stage of organizational development. Over the years I’ve practiced and watched others practice leadership and, while styles may vary wildly, these types and their descriptions have held valid.
Expeditionary Leadership: A strong leader in a nascent organization working in a dynamic and uncertain environment. Expeditionary leaders have strong vision and drive and are quick to acknowledge failure and adjust efforts to keep moving toward their goal. They make quick decisions and re-orient themselves to their goal in spite of what may seem insurmountable obstacles. They keep moving forward and, while they may fail, they do not quit.
The Builder: A strong leader in a nascent organization working in a more stable environment and building upon the foundations of the expeditionary leader. Building leaders are thoughtful decision makers striving to solidify and grow their organization and market share.
The Expansionist: The Expansionist leader works in a mature organization in a growing environment and looks for ways to expand the organization in the market place through partnerships and acquisitions. Expansionist leaders are thoughtful leaders looking to bridge establish organizations to new or growing market areas.
The Housekeeper: The Housekeeping leader works in a mature organization in a mature environment and focused on maintaining market share and shareholder returns on investment. Housekeeping leaders are usually careful decision makers, sometimes hesitant, and only looking to keep profit margins respectable.
None of these are mutually exclusive types, but individual personalities and styles tend to lend a person to one type or another.
As organizations mature, they start developing defined communication patterns based on technology and experience. Understand that our Industrial Age communication patterns are based on the most efficient ways to communicate with the technology available. Protocols and practices have grown up around that technology and in most cases have obscured the original need the communication was designed to meet.
Expeditionary leaders do not usually have the time to analyze most decisions and look for people who can #1) help with the decision making process with insight from their piece of the organization and operation, and #2) make decisions on their own that will move the organization toward the goal. Expeditionary organizations are usually made up of teams of expeditionary leaders.
The builders are the ones who begin defining the patterns of communication in an attempt to communicate efficiently and effectively. Both the expeditionary and the builders are leaders who lead and trust.
Lead and trust are verbs.
The expansionist and the housekeeper are more concerned with management as a means of command and control.
Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “You lead people, you manage things.”
In today’s dynamic, networked, global environment we have a leadership gap. Our traditional organizational hierarchy is challenged by the networked organizations that have emerged. The question, are leaders born or made? Is leadership a gift or a talent?
I believe as Gen. Stanley McCrystal does; leadership is a choice.