I have written before about Daniel Goleman’s analysis of leadership styles [see ‘Clueless on leadership style‘ on June 14th, 2017]; to implement these styles, he identifies, four competencies you require: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Once again, I am involved in teaching helping people develop these competencies through our Science & Technology Leadership CPD programme for aspiring leaders in Research & Development [R&D]. As part of the module on Science Leadership and Ethics we have asked our delegates to write a short essay reflecting on the ethics of one or two real events and, either from experience or vicariously, on the leadership associated with them. Our delegates find this challenging, especially the reflective aspect which is designed to induce them to think about their self, their feelings and their reactions to events. They are technologists who are used to writing objectively in technical reports and the concept of writing about the inner workings of their mind is alien to them.
Apparently, the author Peter Carey compared writing to ‘wading in the flooded basement of my mind’ and, to stretch the analogy, I suspect that our delegates are worried about getting out of their depth or perhaps they haven’t found the stairs to the basement yet. We try to help by providing a map in the form of the flowchart in the thumbnail together with the references below. Nevertheless, this assignment remains an exercise that most undertake by standing at the top of the stairs with a weak flashlight and that few both get their feet wet and tell us what they find in the basement.
Strategic leadership is widely defined as the ability to influence others to voluntarily make decisions that enhance the prospects of the organisation’s success. In learning and teaching, you could substitute or supplement organisation’s success with the students’ success. I believe that this is achieved by creating an environment in which your colleagues can thrive and contribute; so, I see leadership of an academic community as being primarily a service involving the creation and maintenance of a culture of scholarship and excellence.
I have led academic departments on both sides of the Atlantic, university-industrial research programmes and various other organisations and initiatives. However, the standard interview question about my leadership style still tends to stump me – I struggle to identify a consistent approach to my leadership and I am nervous that too much analysis could undermine my ability to lead. However, by chance, I recently came across Daniel Goleman’s work. His research has shown that the use of a collection of leadership styles (he identifies six styles), each at the right time and in the right amount, produces the most effective outcomes. In other words, effective leadership is about being pragmatic and adjusting your approach to suit the circumstances. What’s more, Goleman found that most successful business leaders who followed this pragmatic approach had no idea how they selected the right style for the right time.
Goleman’s work implies that you do not have to conform to one leadership model. Instead, you can roam across a number of leadership styles and select the right one, for the right situation and use it in just the right amount. It sounds straightforward but this flexibility is tough to put into action. Of course, that’s not easy to teach because most of us don’t know how or why we make those decisions but it is related to emotional intelligence and leadership competencies, which we do know how to teach.
Goleman D, Boyatzis R & McKee, The new leaders: transforming the art of leadership into the science of results, London: Sphere, 2002.