THE STRUCTURE OF LEADERSHIP

by Lars-Erik Wiberg
Vice President, The Uses Trust Ltd.

Orientation to the Subject

Leadership structure may be described as having four basic styles and eight combinations of these. Of the basic four, only one has been isolated and named with any sort of precision, and that designation, with which we are all familiar, is known as "Managing". This situation is somewhat peculiar because, of all the basic styles, Managing occupies second place in terms of its prevalence among leaders. Names for the other three styles will be offered shortly, and their relative occurrence described as we proceed.

Of special importance is the fact that leadership does have a logical structure. This does not imply that leaders are necessarily logical themselves; some are, but, judging from the populations among the various styles, most aren't, at least primarily. This means that the prevailing strengths within their leadership competence tend to be along different lines. One style of leadership is no better than another intrinsically. Of course, the wrong style for the situation at hand can, as we all know, be disastrous.

This condition brings us to the question of what the right style is. It is at the same time none of them and all of them. In other words, there has to be an overall mix of styles. Leave out some aspect, and one or more of the crucial ingredients whose descriptions follow will be left out. One must respect the differing styles of one's associates, for it is through such acceptance of variety and wise cultivation of differences that leadership can be comprehensive. It can never exist in its necessary fullness through even the best efforts of a single individual, however gifted.

What determines an individual's leadership style? Everybody has one, to whatever extent it may be used. But what is its foundation? Persuasive evidence drawn from WISTŪ Profile interpretations suggests that it is from among several, natural decision-making patterns, at least one of which we all possess. These patterns will be described first. The basic leadership styles to which both theory and practical experience suggest they apply will then be presented. There follows a description of ways in which these basic styles can combine in one person. Finally, problems and implications are presented.

As we explore decision-making patterns, please keep two points in mind. First, by decision making we mean personal judgment in action. There are various way to look at the concept of judgment, and these are a study in themselves. That which is presented here assumes that the underpinning of a person's natural leadership style is the manner in which judgment is expressed through decision making. Looking at it another way, we all make decisions whether we lead or not. If called upon to lead, it is our natural way of making these decisions that holds the clue as to which form our leadership will take. The second point is that all the designations presented here are arbitrary. Consequently, the numbers associated with patterns and styles have no significance of their own. Pattern 1 is no better than Pattern 2, or whatever; the numbers are simply labels. Now let us briefly examine the four basic decision-making patterns. (For those acquainted with WIST, these conform to the four quadrants in the graphics.)

Decision-Making Pattern 1 Refer to WIST Basic Profiles A & B.

This Pattern's decision making proceeds from concepts, theories, or principles. There has to be a fundamental notion of some kind from which conclusions, and hence decisions, can flow. It is almost like having the right formulas to generate the right answers, but it is not that simple. This decision maker will go to great lengths to unearth or personally develop the concepts, theories, and principles necessary as the foundation of acceptable decisions. Just as often as not, two Pattern 1 decision makers will differ on their fundamentals, so the theoretical basis for decisions is often not transferable. In each and every decision-making situation there will be thinking and intuition of the highest quality.

Decision-Making Pattern 2 Refer to WIST Basic Profiles C & D.

Pattern 2 needs a background of systems, policies, procedures, rules, and regulations. A well-crystallized structure is desired so that conclusions can be drawn according to agreed-upon practices, and the conduct of affairs can proceed in an orderly way. The right kind of organization is most important for a proper decision-making framework, and it will usually be considered satisfactory if surprises are few and results can be anticipated with reasonable accuracy. Here thinking of high quality combines with common sense, realism, and a practical frame of mind

Decision-Making Pattern 3 Refer to WIST Basic Profiles E & F.

This Pattern places a distinctive premium on precedent, tradition, and experience. It makes a big difference whether this or that approach to a decision worked before or whether it is working now somewhere and may be worth emulating. These are the last decision makers to discard any scrap of useful background information that could have a bearing on a current problem; they see no reason at all to venture into the unknown without solid support based on accumulated practical knowledge. Since they are persuasive by nature, they tend to be more subject than the other patterns to personal persuasion. They possess much common sense but combine it with great social sensitivity and an interest in developing their people.

Decision-Making Pattern 4 Refer to Basic WIST Profiles G & H.

Pattern 4 depends upon impulse, inspiration, and revelation. These are by far the hardest decision makers to get a handle on because they go their own way under guidance from deep within. There is less centrality of result with Pattern 4. This means that whereas, in a given situation, others might come to similar conclusions in line with their respective patterns, Pattern 4s will not; they will vary from each other widely. This does not mean that they tend toward erratic decisions; as individuals they are as consistent as anyone else. However, more than the others, they depend on an inner orientation, unique for each of them, as a personal guide to what they should do.

Having read this far, you will have seen information about the way you tend to make your own decisions. You will have seen something about yourself that hits the mark in one or two of the patterns. Do not be concerned if you have not yet been described as precisely as you would prefer. Watch how the basic decision-making patterns lead into basic leadership styles and note how these styles can combine; then you will be able to identify yourself much more accurately in relation to twelve, rather than four, styles of leadership. Now is a good time to emphasize why we are getting at leadership styles through decision-making patterns. First, it is a natural order, since leadership follows after the decision making on which is it based; second, we all make decisions, so however much we are called upon to lead, we are surely led in some way and might just as well be familiar with the main ingredients of the entire decision-making/leadership process; third, if we are actively engaged in leading, we will want to know how that process is reflected not only in us, but also in other leaders.

Leadership Style 1 - "Founding"

Decision-Making Pattern 1 produces Leadership Style 1 which is exercised, as you would expect, through theories, concepts, and principles. Decision making is characterized by rapid identification and integration of applicable data and information. Relevant material is quickly sifted and interpreted according to theories, concepts, and principles which may be either extant or formulated for the purpose at the time. Of special interest is the apparent ease with which such leaders can come up with decisions and solutions when faced with complicated data and alternatives. Indeed, it is not always obvious that they are leading at all when all they seem to do is invoke the relevant concept for guidance - something any leaders could do if only they thought of it. Style 1 Leaders are synthesizers; they see relationships among facts and phenomena which, on the surface, seem unrelated. They have great skill at decision making in a scientific environment. People problems are a burden to them. To start with, they find them difficult both to anticipate and to recognize; then, once they realize there may be or actually is a problem, they find it hard to cope with.

Leadership Style 1 Leaders are strategic by nature; their capacity to prepare for future contingencies is built in. When called upon to generate written plans, however, they often find it hard to generate a good product because they are apt to leave out the obvious, and what to them is obvious others may very well find obscure. Because of their orientation toward principles of which others may not be aware, at least at the outset, it may be hard to understand them. Thus they often require a sort of interpretation through well-informed intermediaries. They are the givers of models, many of which, after they have withstood the test of common sense and experience, become the precedents and traditions for others to follow. They are founders and pioneers, like to experiment, and have a high tolerance for ambiguity. They can even encourage duplication of effort in the interest of seeing who comes up with the better solution to a specific problem. Their entrepreneurial goals should be directed into areas where the certainties are few and the outcomes unpredictable. They learn most effectively through visual means, principally reading, and are likely to avoid lectures when feasible.

Leadership Style 2 - "Managing"

Moving to Style 2 Leadership, you see the logical/intellectual component still present, but whereas Style 1 had a blue sky quality about it - a touch of the unreal - Style 2 is grounded in practicality. Here decision making typically involves analysis and testing of available data and information - all of it. This process depends heavily on thoroughness, on touching all the bases. Judgment is reserved, decisions held back, until all the facts are in. It is noteworthy that this style of leadership has come to be called "Managing" with its realistic emphasis on controls, rules, regulations, systems, policies, and procedures. Style 2 Leaders have just as much trouble with people problems as do Style 1s, but where the latter are apt to throw up their hands in frustration, and either accept or reject others willy nilly, the former will believe and have confidence in others once they have proven themselves - and not before. They are organization minded, highly systematic, and their overall plan (they always have one) contains provisions for every pertinent activity. It is within these slots that subordinates prove themselves. Style 2 Leaders are bureaucratic and forensic by nature. They are also tactical and always have a strong sense of what to do next. They are givers of structure with which to face given needs, and when such needs change, they will never hesitate to restructure. Their tolerance for ambiguity is extremely low; they much prize efficiency and economy of effort. They handle surprises less well than other leaders. Their entrepreneurial activities should be channeled into areas which contain as few unknowns as possible so that results over the reasonably near term can be projected with as much accuracy as possible. They learn most effectively through visual means, notably observation.

Leadership Style 3 - "Developing"

Style 3 Leadership heralds a sea change from the preceding two. They had an impersonal intellectual/logical common denominator which is now replaced in Styles 3 & 4 with one of personal feeling and desire. Here issues of character and conviction dominate those of analysis and testing. Problems are solved and decisions made within a framework of applicable precedent, and which precedent the leader believes to be applicable can be a matter of powerful, personal certitude. Such leaders customarily adopt principles and structure only from among traditional models that have withstood the test of practical experience and are tried and true. And they are likely to stick with the models they adopt through any contingency. They are deft in their resolution of people problems; they believe that people are good until they have proven themselves otherwise. Style 3 Leaders will not only try subordinates in various positions in an effort to identify their best niches, but also permit - and even encourage - subordinates to build their own niches around themselves when specific positions can not be readily identified. They are born team builders, staff development oriented, and loyal up and down the chain of command. They place abundant faith in teaching and coaching and personal, hands-on encouragement. They tend to go the last mile with their people and are as visibly upset as their subordinates when things don't work out.

Style 3 Leaders are neither strategic nor tactical themselves. They try, first of all, to do what they think is right. If strategy or tactics are necessary they find them either in precedent or from their trusted associates. This invariably works because their style of loyal leadership produces associates they can trust implicitly. Their entrepreneurial efforts should include significant people-contact together with the opportunity to bring others along. They are almost always effective communicators; they can sell and much prefer to lead through personal persuasion than the invocation of rules and regulations. Although they will fall back on policy if they must, the way they will do it is by trying to sell the policy. More than others, they have excellent memories for what they have heard, are disposed to share credit, and enjoy ceremony. They learn most effectively through hearing. Not surprisingly, this Style produces the best listeners.

Leadership Style 4 - "Inspiring"

Style 4 Leaders experience great difficulty in following those who possess the other Styles. They have a highly personal internal guidance system, based on intuition and inspiration, that helps them to make decisions - good ones - almost instantaneously so long as their health is sound. Their problem-solving skills appear to be equally rapid and are often baffling to others because of their effectiveness in the absence of formal logic or applicable precedent. They have the least trouble of all the Styles in establishing their leadership credentials; it is almost as if they can not avoid leading. Such Leaders have immense confidence in what others can accomplish if only they try, and it is to get them to try that Style 4 Leaders bend much of their efforts. They lead chiefly by example in a charismatic way.

Style 4 Leaders do not plan as such because they feel intimately involved in a larger, cosmic plan that already exists, and they prefer to find their place in that plan through intuitive means. Of all the Leaders, their accessibility changes the most with prevailing mood; they are the least self-conscious, invariably idiosyncratic, often mysterious, and sometimes scary. Their entrepreneurial efforts should contain the possibility for unique personal contributions. They tend to have more available energy than the other styles. There appears to be no central tendency in how they learn, although some are not especially observant. However, where there is a preference, it is likely to be pronounced.

The Four Leadership Styles as a Group

The presence in the general population of the four decision-making patterns is unequal; therefore the four leadership styles can be presumed to be unequally present as well. The most heavily populated Decision-Making Pattern is 3, followed in order by 2, 4,& 1. The respective prevalence of the four Decision Making Patterns, and hence Leadership Styles, in percentage terms, is approximately 40, 30, 20, & 10 for those individuals who do not display a combination of patterns or styles. For these latter, the percentages are, as yet, unknown. At the beginning of this essay, you saw that most leaders are not logical. Now you see why. But keep in mind that he most heavily populated decision-making pattern - Pattern 3 - although not characterized by logic, is not necessarily devoid of it, just that logic is not the favored basis for making decisions.

How do the various leadership styles relate to one another? Much depends upon the specific nature of the tasks at hand since each style is at home in a different leadership environment. Nevertheless, there are interpersonal risks generated by certain reporting relationships. In general, Style 1 should report to another Style 1 or to Style 4, and not to Styles 2 or 3 unless the leader is gifted. Styles 2 and 3 can report to any Style. Style 4 can report to Styles 2 and 3 for only brief intervals, to a Style 1 who is older and wiser, or preferably another Style 4.

How can the various styles be present in one individual? The first axiom is that only neighboring styles can co-exist in one person. The second axiom is that they co-exist either by combination or by alternation. In other words, Styles 1 and 3 can not be found in one person, nor can Styles 2 and 4; neighboring Styles, e.g. 1 and 2; 2 and 3; etc., can, however, occur in the same individual. By combination is meant that two styles actually blend so that each loses part of its identity in the creation of a new style that is a sort of hybrid. By alternation is meant that each style retains its identity and is used in tandem with the other. Let's see some examples of what happens in actual practice.

Leadership Styles 1 & 2

In combination, the main emphasis will be on impersonal evaluation - logical processes and analytical thinking - the epitome of rationality. Some practicality and timeliness may be lost, and there won't be much room for intuitive hunch-playing. This combination favors a lean staff in an austere working environment where both sophisticated strategies and tactics will be thoroughly explored, refined, adopted and finally, implemented. Be prepared to be available at a moment's notice, and don't plan on much golf.

In alternation, the swing will be between the theoretical and the practical in this highly perceptive pairing. Analysis will be subordinate to synthesis and common sense, but it will play a significant role in support of each in turn. This style of leadership has available a common touch which, along with the vision inherent in Style 1, can make for an environment that is fresh and exciting, where new ideas can be freely kicked around but for adoption must fill a realistic need that is either presently felt or certain to present itself.

Leadership Style 2 & 3

In combination, this pairing of styles produces the utmost in practicality - an exceedingly realistic and down-to-earth approach to both persons and problems. The emphasis is so focused on what to do now that planning, as well as adherence to existing systems and organizational protocol, can be neglected in the heat of reaction to an immediate problem. Nevertheless, if it is reliable response in a crisis that you need (and let the other stuff wait), this is the style of leadership that delivers.

In alternation, practicality is ever present, however, in a subordinate role. There is a swing between a systematic/analytic emphasis that is strong on impersonal tactics, and a socially conscious outlook that can actually approximate benevolence. This leader will never lose sight of realistic goals and objectives but will approach them from different points of view which, as they alternate, can confuse an observer. On the one hand there is a highly intellectual and emotionally neutral outlook; on the other a highly personal orientation full of warmth and feeling.

Leadership Style 3 & 4

In combination, this pairing of styles produces unquestionably the most activist kind of leadership, not so much in terms of reaction to problems, although this is possible, but in original action toward a personal goal. There is emphasis on achieving something new and aesthetically satisfying; however, traditional values will not be lost and may be important. In the eagerness to get on with it there may be a neglect of variables that should be taken into account, factors that would be included in decision making if only sharper perception were available.

In alternation we find perception restored with the pell-mell activist influence now subordinate albeit present underneath. Thus a more calm and considered leadership environment is produced, in which there is a swing between outgoing and effective communication of realistic and pertinent values and objectives, and a sort of uncanny, even evangelical, expression of what the future might bring. These leaders have feet in both the present and the future, make good sense of both, and proceed deliberately with both in mind.

Leadership Style 4 & 1

In combination, vision and intuition are most prominent. This is a highly future-oriented brand of leadership, in which the present will be subordinated to the leader's perception of the future and what must be done to prepare for it. This leadership is not only theoretical, but also prophetic, and of all the styles, it is the most difficult to understand. Yet it is not hard to get along with because what the others are doing and thinking are usually not the leader's main concern. It may take such leaders more time than most to get moving, but when they do, it is with unique assurance. Their outlook is uncluttered by precedent.

In alternation, the influence of future-oriented perception is diminished as two startlingly different behavioral modes alternate. One is that of the aesthetically sensitive leader who actively pursues goals in which some variant of artistic beauty predominates. The other is the rational experimenter who methodically pursues objectives that have applied scientific or strategic business purposes. In either pursuit, invention is a likely outcome, one rich in feeling and character, the other in intellect and rationality.

Discussion and Implications

The foregoing 12 leadership styles can be accurately inferred from WIST Profiles. However, with or without profile information, an interested individual, armed only with introspection, can home in on applicable decision-making patterns and leadership styles. Were we to refine these patterns and styles further, as the family of WIST Profiles suggests should be achievable, we could then depict patterns and styles that are even more distinctive. The objective here has been to give descriptions that were not only complete enough to display an overall structure for leadership, but also sufficiently general to ease identification of the various patterns and styles.

Considering both that there are many styles and that they all have a valid place, there really is no good reason for anyone to attempt a style at odds with whatever comes naturally. Those who might believe it a good idea to adopt expedient decision-making patterns and consequent styles should remember that it is always best to lead from strength; all of which translates into not wasting time and effort that could be put toward cultivation of natural strengths or self-improvement in areas of natural weakness. Weaknesses are the price we pay for our strengths, and we pay double if we not only have them, but also force ourselves to rely on them.

If your forte is "Developing", don't try to make yourself into a pioneer. The real pioneers will skin you alive as long as they aren't trying to display a developmental veneer. If your great strength is "Inspiring", make peace with your inefficiency. Try to make yourself systematic and you will be about as effective as the "Managing" wizard who tries to succeed as a charismatic. There is something ungainly about trying to adopt a style that doesn't fit. If it is at all possible, strive to abstain from the practice of any style that is less than your best.

You have seen how, for example, "Managing" is long on tactics and organization, short on strategy, deficient in inspiration, and weak in development. "Founding" is adept in strategy, inept in development, weak in tactics, indifferent to precedent, and without peer in pioneering. Tradition-rich "Developing" is unexcelled in team building and conservation of useful experience, strong on communication, indifferent to theories, not especially inspirational, and weak in planning. With "Inspiring" you get charismatic personal example at the expense of efficiency and organization, and heartfelt inspiration that may be more an expression of convictions than anything realistic or achievable.

It is not only possible, but also often the case that many leaders who are themselves adequate provide inadequate leadership. Just gather an overabundance of the same style in support of the same effort. Think of the weaknesses that can prevail! There has to be a mix of decision-making patterns if these foundations for leadership style are to be adequately expressed. One does come to the conclusion that a balance of leadership styles is essential in any enterprise if it is to prosper.

Copyright © 2001, Lars-Erik Wiberg