Leadership Styles


Steve Morgan asked:



A certain degree of caution should be exercised when interpreting quotes by famous people. Words by their own definition are often imprecise and open to interpretation depending on the original circumstances surrounding the need for the quote and for whom the quote was intended. While quotes can be very clever for a number of reasons:

·        brevity

·        structure

·        play on words

·        irony etc


they can often be undone by their succinctness.

Quotes also need a very specific context to maintain their integrity as opposing quotes often contradict each other thus nullifying their meaning. E.g. “An eye for an eye,” is negated by, “Turn the other cheek,” and “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” is contradicted by, “He who hesitates is lost.”


Part A


I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Ralph Nader.


1.       This saying by Ralph Nader informs us that leaders of today should be the catalysts who develop leadership attributes in people who are to be the leaders of tomorrow. And that without this occurrence we would eventually become a community of mindless followers.


2.       In this complex world of hi-tech information-overload and instant communication, the burden of leadership can become a very stressful occupation. By sharing the workload through delegation, leaders not only lighten their own stress levels, but also give others the opportunity to stretch themselves by taking on added responsibility. Without this internal self-development, institutions would soon be bereft of people with leadership experience. Delegation by leaders hinges on trust, since without trust, a leader would be constantly “checking up” on the work delegated, for fear that their efforts were perceived as a reflection of another person’s failure. Delegation handed out appropriately and at the correct level of difficulty however can have major benefits for ambitious middle management people who wish to become leaders in their own right.

  The number one failure of leaders is their failure to reproduce other leaders.

— Dr. Jack Elwood



The antithesis of this would be the leadership style of a dictator such as Hitler who amassed millions of cult-like followers; rarely listened to his advisors; and delegated a good deal of his decision-making into the hands of astrologers.


3.       Ralph Nader is one of America’s most effective social critics. He has been called Muckraker, Consumer Crusader, and Public Defender. His documented criticism of government and industry has had widespread effect on public awareness and bureaucratic power. Time magazine called him “US’s toughest customer.” His inspiration and example have awakened consumer advocates, citizen activists, and public interest lawyers who have established more public awareness organizations throughout the country.

His varied and colourful life that spans a multitude of activities and crusades give Ralph Nader widespread credibility that encourages people to take notice of what he advocates.


You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.

Dwight D Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)


1.       Dwight D Eisenhower is implying here that punishments and aggressive remonstrations with people will not necessarily achieve the results you want. Bullying is not leadership it is domination by fear and sooner or later that repressed fear will rise up and overthrow the oppressor.


2.       Punitive leadership styles of dictators and authoritarian figures may have effective short-term results. However, the resentment and apprehension built up by this style of leadership becomes counter-productive when innovation and creativity are needed within an organisation. It stifles peoples’ ability to experiment for fear of failure and possible ridicule. Both approaches suggested by the carrot and the stick theory certainly produce results but create different atmospheres within the working environment and have significant impact on staff relations.


Often the person leading from the front can become out of step with those they are leading because they are blind to what’s really going on behind them. Those who lead by pushing from behind often have a lack of vision because they can’t see what’s ahead of them. In many situations it is best to lead from the middle with your colleagues around you sharing the decision-making towards a common goal.  Synergy in a complex organisation appears to be the most productive method of utilising the combined strengths of its talent pool.


3.       After successfully leading victorious troops in WWII Dwight D Eisenhower became a very successful two-term President of the United States from 1953 – 1961. Not only did he procure a truce in Korea but worked tirelessly to reduce the strains of the Cold War with Russia. At home he actively supported desegregation by sending troops to Little Rock in order to ensure Negro children could attend school. A humanitarian citizen who knew about leadership and one whose words we should heed.




Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.

Harold Geneen, Founder, MCI Communications


1.      While a great many leaders are outstanding orators and can sway audiences with their emotive rhetoric, Harold Geneen is promoting the idea that actions (and attitudes) speak louder than words. I believe that by using the word practiced he is also stating that the reality of leadership is in the successful performance of the tasks outlined in the leader’s job description and the best way to guide others is to lead by example. “There is a great distance between said and done”, Puerto Rican Proverb.


2.      Leaders can adopt a number of styles from being aloof and authoritarian, to totally informal and engaging. Some of the most important attributes of leaders who lead with actions and positive attitudes are:

·        Willing to experiment but not reckless

·        Highly engaged but not overwhelmed

·        Trusting but not naïve

·        Powerful but not overbearing

·        Visible but not obtrusive

·        Dignified but informal

·        Demanding but understanding

·        Assertive not aggressive

·        Create a climate of culture for change


Fervent speeches and emotional rhetoric can be useful tools when enthusiasm and passion are needed to generate interest in a scheme or project but it’s the leadership of the working group that determines its success. The actions of the individual players or the deployment of their collective strengths is the secret to developing an idea through to its successful conclusion.


3.      Harold Geneen
was not only the business icon who founded MCI but was also the author of many quotes about management strategies and leadership. He was a well-respected leader in his field. His recipe for success, explained this summer in an interview with The Associated Press: “There is no secret, no magic formula. Just the old-fashioned virtues of hard work, honesty and risk-taking.” And one other quote which sums up why we should respect his opinions: Some associates said Mr. Geneen, who had no children, sacrificed virtually his entire personal life for his duties at ITT. “Some people acc
use me of being a workaholic,” Mr. Geneen once observed. “I plead guilty.”

Part B


A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops.

– General of the Armies John J. Pershing

1.       This quote from John J. Pershing emphasises the need for capable leaders who have the ability/skill to galvanise a group into a cohesive productive unit rather than an incompetent leader who causes divisiveness and despondency through mistrust and suspicion.

2.       In order to lead people it is important to avoid some of the most obvious pitfalls:

·        Poor human relations skills

·        Poor interpersonal communication skills

·        Avoidance of conflict

·        Lack of knowledge about the situation

·        Excessive control

·        Inconsistency

·        Favouritism

·        Failure to follow through

·        Snap knee-jerk reactions

·        Failure to give praise

·        Staying distant/aloof

·        Failure to delegate

·        Being aggressive rather than assertive

If potential leaders avoid these basic errors of judgement then it will lead to a greater harmony within the group they are trying to manage. Decision-making is a vital part of successful leadership since there are three basic types of decisions that need to be made. A Level-1 decision is one that involves and affects the whole staff and is made by them after discussion. A Level-2 decision is one that affects the organization and is made by the management team after consultation with the staff involved. A Level-3 decision is one that involves the law and is made solely by the leader/manager. By involving staff in the decision-making process and stating the level of the decision prior to any discussion, you empower them to make better individual decisions later on since they can understand the process of how the decision came about and for what reason.

3.       John J. Pershing, General of the Armies, had a distinguished army career initiated by President Roosevelt when he promoted him to brigadier general over the heads of 862 majors. When promoted once more during WWI he was quoted as saying: “I am grateful to President Wilson and Secretary Baker for selecting me to command our armies and for the whole-hearted and unfailing support they accorded me in France. No commander was ever privileged to lead a finer force; no commander ever derived greater inspiration from the performance of his troops.”

This perceptive reference to the performance of his troops tells us a great deal about why this man had such an innate understanding of the nature of leadership and why we should take particular note of his philosophies. He realised that it would be better for one lion to lead 100 sheep, than one sheep to lead 100 lions.


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