Did you know that, officially, there are 66 theories of leadership? Some of them you might already know, especially if you’ve ever taken a HR course at university. These most probably included transformational leadership and transactional leadership, although it doesn’t really matter which one you favour. All of them are weak and biased.
Yes, all of them. That’s the conclusion of a new study released by the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management. For example, charismatic leadership focuses too much on an individual’s magnetic personality, which in reality can be a sign of narcissism, while visionary leadership concentrates excessively on CEOs, thereby ignoring the influence of employees and middle managers on organisational success.
It’s a realisation that prompted the scholars to review these leadership styles and to integrate them into a cohesive and unified model which they’ve called value-creating leadership. This isn’t a 67th theory of leadership. Neither is it a new style of leadership. It’s simply a framework that conceptualises the research to date into three distinct yet linked components.
The first is strategic. This is about setting the direction irrespective of the level you inhabit on a corporate hierarchy. Even among frontline managers, there is much scope for strategic influence in terms of setting the right team-based goals and implementing departmental plans.
The second is architectural, which reflects the structures and processes that need to be in place. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a supervisor or an executive. In either context, of most importance is the logical management of the organisation’s physical and non-physical resources, with infrastructure representing the former and corporate culture the latter.
The third is interpersonal. This is about employee motivation. That might involve inspiring an entire workforce or just a small team. Whatever the scenario, it necessitates coaching and rewarding in alignment with people’s values, work preferences and aspirations.
As summarised by the researchers, when leaders at any level adhere to the three components, organisations are “freed from their dependence on executive stars who possess special intuition and insight” and can instead focus on “increasing the value of the organisation – without relying on a charismatic leader or a superhero”.