The Wisdom of Leadership

by Mike Clayton  - March 19, 2012

Leadership development has evolved a lot over the last twenty years.� But it still focuses on two aspects of leadership:

  1. The roles a leader must fulfil
  2. The styles of leadership that will make them successful

Role-Based Leadership Development

One of the most robust and long-serving role-based models of leadership is John Adair�s model of functional leadership, in which he identifies three needs that a leader must serve:

  1. Task
  2. Team
  3. Individual

In doing so, Adair sets out eight functions of a leader:

  1. Defining the task
  2. Planning
  3. Briefing
  4. Controlling
  5. Evaluating
  6. Motivating
  7. Organising
  8. Providing an example

In their more recent work, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner articulate five roles that a leader must fulfil to meet �The Leadership Challenge�.

  1. Challenge the process
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Enable others to act
  4. model the way
  5. Encourage the heart

Despite the more inspiring language, there is a lot of overlap, suggesting that Kouzes and Posner are really re-articulating a familiar approach.

Style-Based Leadership Development

There are many style based models of leadership � with perhaps the definitive statement being that of Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt, who set out seven leadership behaviours and three factors to consider in deciding which to apply in their 1958 Harvard Business Review Article.� These were styles of behaviour that you could choose to fit the situation.� If you choose well, your will be more effective than if you either read the situation incorrectly or simply choose badly.� Simplified and compellingly presented versions are widely marketed and two of the best are Paul Hersey�s Situational Leadership, and (my favourite) the Ken Blanchard Companies� Situational Leadership II.� Both are trademarked methodologies supported by extensive testing and well-developed training materials.

But there must be more

Knowing your roles and applying the right style of leadership can get you a long way� but only so far.� Among Kouzes and Posner�s research results is a list of twenty leadership characteristics.� These are the characteristics that a sample of 75,000 respondents most admire and, crucially, would willingly follow.

Kouzes and Posner: 20 common practices of respected leaders

This list must offer a far better prescription for lasting leadership than the techniques of power, control and acquisition that characterise many of the leaders we see in the public gaze: in the worlds of business, politics and entertainment.� But how can you go about acquiring these qualities?

Leadership as Wisdom

I would argue that we need leaders with wisdom.

Smart to Wise offers a prescription for a new style of development programme, based on developing wisdom, to help future leaders emerge as wise.� These would become the women and men whom we need to lead us and whom we would willingly follow.

How can I justify this assertion?

All I need to do is� to classify Kouzes and Posner�s top twenty leadership characteristics into the structure of my seven pillars of wisdom.� Immediately it becomes clear that what 75,000 people would willingly follow is nothing other than wisdom.

Kouzes and Posner: 20 common practices of respected leaders allocated into Mike Clayton's seven pillars of wisdom

Substance or Impression?

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