However, when there is no such thing as right leadership, how does a manager achieve the desired outcome? As usual: it depends!
It very much depends on the context where leadership is supposed to happen. Leadership happens in a specific (corporate) culture and as part of the interaction with the people being led. In turn, this means that what works quite well in one company might not be working at all in another company.
One of the possible definitions for leadership is: “Using communication to get people to work together and achieve a particular common goal.” (derived from the definition of Bernd Schmid, isb Wiesloch). Accordingly, leadership is successful when targets have been achieved. What a successful leadership will look like depends on what the people involved need and what their background is. Thus, leadership can be successful only through the interaction between the person being led and the leader. Ultimately, it comes down to the skill set of both parties involved: that of the leader and that of the person being led.
This just goes to show that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question what effective leadership approaches and behavioral patterns should look like. Any approach has to be tailored to the specific context and the specific challenge. Tight leadership may be the method to rely on for new, rather unknown issues, while a very loose leadership may be suitable when everyone is familiar with the matter. Employees who already have learned how to perform self-organization need to be addressed by leadership in a different way than people who are not yet familiar with self-organization, etc.
One of the most common pitfalls when it comes to leadership is the delegation of responsibility. In this case, careful communication followed by consistency is of utmost importance. Responsibility issues must be clarified on a continuous basis as part of so-called “responsibility dialogues” between the manager – also as the mouthpiece of the organization – and the employees. The leader must never duck away from this, and the same applies to conflicts. Of course, this can be partly clarified within the staff if self-organization has been established, but it is the responsibility of the manager to make sure it works.
Another challenge refers to decisions that need to be made. The leader is responsible for providing support at this point as well respectively to empower the team to make decisions in the team as a whole. Self-organization may never turn into leaving employees to their own devices!
In a nutshell: There’s no such thing as “right leadership”! However, we can argue that communication is the biggest challenge of leadership. Hence, when a leader does not feel like using communication in order to bring all people involved together to achieve an overarching goal, then the leadership role is probably not the best fit for that person. So, a prerequisite for you to lead successfully is that inspiring others and taking them along on a good path through communication should give you joy!
This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here