Jody Victor: Alternatives to Directive Leadership

In most cultures today directive or autocratic leadership is considered to be outdated. Directive or autocratic leaders tell subordinates what to do and how to do it and the subordinates are valued for their ability to do things as they are are told to do them.

One issue with this style of leadership is that it is unlikely to maximize the perspectives and talents of each employee or team member. There are several other fairly distinct style of leadership that modern leaders are employing, however.

Consultative leaders seek and value the council of their entire team. While this type of leader is usually still task oriented, by including everyone’s ideas the team has the biggest pool of solutions to choose from when problem solving. A consultative leader is still directive in that they will make a final decisions and therefor stand apart from the team. A good example of this style is a baseball coach consulting with the pitcher and catcher about strategy.

The consultative leader might take their style a step further by becoming a participative leader and put himself on more even ground with his team by working in the group. Participative leaders will still need to be directive at times by moderating the conversation or setting down timelines for decision making. However, final decisions are owned by the group, not by the leader alone.

At the other end of the spectrum from the participative leader, the delegative steps back and allows the team autonomy. Again, this type of leader may to be directive when it comes to logistics, but will be a hands-off mentor figure to the group. Decision making may be owned completely by the team in this type of relationship.

Finally, there are negotiative leaders. This style involves offering incentives to entice his followers towards success. This type of leader is often fairly directive and values his own decision making as a leader. Unlike a fully directive leader, a negotiator often values ends over means, allowing individuals and teams room to try their own ideas. There is a long standing tradition of this style in sales in which sales people or teams receive commissions on sales.

Whatever alternative leadership style one adopts it will be necessary at times for a leader to step in and make some directive decisions, however choosing one of these alternative styles will allow a leader to get the most out of their team.

Is Great Leadership Only a Matter of DNA?

We’ve all heard the colloquialism that great leaders are born, not made. The mythologies of cultures through out time of made leadership hereditary in our collective memories. However, as Martin Williams notes in his 2013 article in the Guardian, a University College London study did find that “leadership is partly hereditary.”

Williams ask, “But is it really that simple?” While they may quibble over the details, most academics will tell you that leaders, like other archetypical roles like a mentor or teacher, are created through a combination of nature and nurture – being genetically predisposed to leadership oriented personality traits is a boon, but if conditions are right for that person to develop into a leader, they are not likely to develop that skill.

The University College London report acknowledges this, “What determines whether an individual occupies a leadership position is the complex product of genetic and environmental influences.” The report’s lead author actually said: “The conventional wisdom – that leadership is a skill – remains largely true”.