Mar07

Understanding the Five Roles of Leadership

Are there universally shared leadership characteristics? Experts estimate that 50 to 85 percent of leadership characteristics are found in all effective leaders. The missing variables are personal situations and internal influences (drive, ambition, etc.).

You can improve your leadership abilities by focusing on the main characteristics that define those who succeed at leading others. (Read my previous post here.) The Leadership Code’s five-rule framework represents 60 to 70 percent of fundamentally effective leadership. While there may be variances in strategy, vision and individual job requirements, the rules are designed as a foundation for effective leadership across all industries.

Most people are naturally predisposed to excel in one or two of the five leadership roles:

  1. Strategist
  2. Executor
  3. Talent manager
  4. Human-capital developer
  5. Personal proficiency

Some are big-picture strategists and future-oriented, while others love getting things done or engaging people for high performance.

If you’re in a more senior role, you’ll need to branch out from your predisposed areas of excellence. You’ll be required to master all of the first four roles or surround yourself with people who can fill in the gaps for you.

The last role, personal proficiency, is the foundation for improving skills in the first four roles. Personal proficiency will help you become a more rounded leader. It is the only one that cannot be delegated, although having an executive coach [link] can help you develop more rapidly.

At the heart of leadership effectiveness is the ability to continually learn and enhance your personal effectiveness.

You are not solely defined by what you do or know. In fact, there’s a lot you don’t know about yourself because everyone has limited vision and blind spots. We err in thinking. We jump to conclusions. We have poor communication habits that could definitely improve. Personal proficiency takes time, vigilance and help from others.

Who you are as a leader has everything to do with how much you can accomplish with and through other people. In The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner cite three reasons why people follow someone:

  1. Integrity
  2. Competency
  3. Forward thinking

Leaders are learners, and their classroom is everywhere. We learn from our mistakes, successes, books, coworkers, bosses, friends and life itself. Leaders are passionate about their beliefs and interests, willing to examine them at every occasion.

Leaders know what matters to them. They inspire loyalty and goodwill in others because they act with integrity and trust. They can be bold and courageous because they know what matters most. This helps them tolerate ambiguity, uncertainty and crises.

The Leadership Code provides four summary observations:

  1. All leaders must excel at personal proficiency. Without a foundation of trust and credibility, you cannot ask others to follow you.
  2. All leaders must have one towering strength. Most successful leaders excel in at least one of the other four core roles. Most are personally predisposed to one of the four areas (i.e., their signature strength).
  3. All leaders must be at least average in their weaker leadership domains.
  4. The higher you rise in an organization, the more you need to develop excellence in the remaining domains.

How can you use this framework for leadership effectiveness to improve your abilities? And, if you’re not working yet with an executive coach, review my web pages to see if it makes sense for you in your current career path to explore this option. I’d love to hear from you.

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