A Leader’s Clothes: New Year New Clothes

As a child growing up, I remember reading Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, which has made a lasting impression on me, to this very day. The art of introspection is critical to a leader since you may be surrounded by “courtiers who appease the Emperor and praise the non-existent clothes. Good leadership is being open to honest feedback and responding to it positively and constructively.

What does your clothes say about you? I have met some leaders who have boasted they have been wearing the same clothes for the past 30 years and more. When was the last time you cleaned out your closet, to rid it of clothes that no longer fits the time or environment?

When developing your leadership skills, one must soon confront an important practical question, “What leadership styles work best for the organization and me?” Theoretical examinations of successful world-renowned leaders have revealed leadership style as an indicator of organizational success (Adeyemi-Bello, 2001).

Here are the 10 types of “Clothes” I have observed some leaders keep wearing throughout their terms.

1) Pajamas - The Laissez Faire Leadership Style - The laissez-faire leaders is extremely passive and inactive (Nothouse, 2006). Frequent absence and lack of involvement is characteristic of this style. It’s surprising how few leaders really have a clear view of what is happening in their industry. In this aspect, you could say they are sleeping; oblivious to what is happening around them or how their actions are affecting the customers, employees or organization. This leadership style hinders the production of employees who require supervision.

2) Jogging Suit – The Coaching Style is used by active and highly engaged and visible leaders. This style involves a great deal of "hands-on" involvement in an employee's work process. This is commonly referred to as “healthy” leadership. The coaching leader develops people for the future. Coaching “increases goal attainment, enhances resilience and increases workplace well being.” (Grant, Curtayne, & Burton, 2009). This type of leader models excellence and self-direction.

3) Heavy Work Coverall – This Autocratic Style is embraced by workaholics and micromanagers. Work life balance is a myth to them. They are quick to criticize or point out flaws when targets aren’t met. They usually set unrealistic performance indicators for the team.

4) Business Suit- Authoritative and unapproachable they are. Open door policy is shunned. They see themselves on a higher level and superimpose the hierarchy. They get things done within the umbrella of the status quo and often intimidate their staff.

5) Lab Coat – Strategic Leadership - These individuals are good listeners, risk takers and problem solvers. They grasps the entire situation and bring new thinking into play. Innovation and change are at the core of their being. This type of style tends to be seen in organizations that must innovate to stay in the game. Failures don't impede progress.

6) Rain Coat – The Participative Leadership Style represents an intermediate between micromanaging and not being engaged. They are not afraid to get their hands dirty and value the input of team members. These leaders don’t run from the storm. They take the blame for their team when things go wrong rather than looking for a scapegoat the minute a crisis occurs.

Leadership is, and always has been, about character. True character is revealed during a moment of truth, when the leader has something significant to lose. “Get out in front where you can see and be seen. That way, not only will you know what’s going on, but those who follow will know what’s going on.” Dr. William Cohen

7) Bathing Suit Servant Leadership Style – Servant Leadership gives emphasis to the needs of the follower over the self- interests of the leader (Laub, 1999). Grounded in teamwork and egalitarianism, the servant leader involves followers in decision making. Genuine and humble are some of the qualities they possess. They prefer to give others the spot light. They are not afraid to say when they don’t know. They are honest with employees about what is going on.

8) Casual Attire- Charismatic Leadership Style - They are well liked by their team and continuously praise team members for their efforts. They create a positive culture that lead to high morale. A charismatic leader will demonstrate behaviour that exemplifies the tasks values needed to fulfill the organization’s vision. He or she is the ultimate team leader and makes instilling a motivational work ethic a number one priority (Mannie, 2005).

9) Party Dress - Self Seeking Leadership Style -These are impressionists. They are good at making smoke screens as well as are boastful, but can’t deliver. They don’t give recognition where it is due but take all the credit for themselves. They love the spotlight and love to “look good. ” They consider their personal image of utmost importance and are often classified as trendy by onlookers. However, they often employ unethical methods to achieve noteworthy results.

10) Gardening Jacket- Transformational Leaders - value growth not just market share but also the personal development of their team. This leader is considered a visionary and he or she sets goals for the organization and develop plans to achieve them (Northouse, 2006). Mentoring, nurturing and empowering are characteristics of this style. The primary focus of the transformational leadership style is to make change happen in: themselves, others and the organization. These leaders motivate employees and enhance productivity and efficiency by providing support and guidance.

In fact, choosing the right style will depend on the season or time of day, (situation) the event (organization) and the individuals in attendance (followers). This is a key element of leader effectiveness. Sadly, though, that’s not what some individual’s do; they have one style used in all situations. It’s like having only one suit, something they wear everywhere. Of course, we could all agree that wearing only one set of clothes to different occasions is inappropriate especially when there is a dress code in effect. But then so is having only one leadership style.

Today’s leadership requirements calls for a multi-style attitude. The most influential approach will include the use of multiple styles. Companies become historically recognized by the influential reach or climatic demise of their leaders.

Leadership should always be contingent on the given circumstances, situations and stimuli in order to remain effective. In fact, situational leadership may, at the end of the day win the poised “Best Dressed” Leadership prize in most instances.