Good Read: Making Sense of Leadership

I like ideas that are simple and easy to understand. The simpler an idea is to understand and then use in my life, it’s more likely to have an impact on my daily habits. You know the saying, sow an action, reap a habit…
That’s one of the reasons I really enjoyed Making Sense of Leadership: Exploring the Five Key Roles Used by Effective Leaders.

The authors, Esther Cameron and Mike Green, put forth a straightforward premise: that the most effective leaders don’t have a single style that they use in every situation, instead, they take on different roles to suit the situation. Based on their research and interviews, they were able to cluster traits, competencies and attitudes into five distinctive roles:

The Edgy Catalyzer:

  • Focuses on discomfort
  • Asks difficult questions, spots dysfunction and resistance, and creates tension for change

Visionary Motivator:

  • Focuses on buy-in
  • Articulates a compelling picture of the future, motivates and inspires people

Measured Connector

  • Focuses on connectivity
  • Reinforces what’s important and establishes a few simple rules, connects people and agendas.

Tenacious Implementer

  • Focuses on projects
  • Doggedly pursues the plan, hold people to account, lead by driving a project through to completion

Thoughtful Architect

  • Focuses on design
  • Is principal architect and designer of the strategies, crafts seemingly disparate ideas into a way forward, scans the environment, sees what’s happening in the environment and creates an organizing framework.

After distilling a diverse set of behaviors, attitudes and competencies in these five roles, the authors were able to development a framework to make them easy to understand and use by everyone in the organization. Most descriptions of successful leaders that I have encountered read like the Visionary Motivator role. The implication was that if you were not a Visionary Motivator 100% of the time, you were not much of a leader. The biggest eye opener for me was that the behaviors demonstrated by a Tenacious Implementer or an Edgy Catalyst could be considered “leadership” instead of “managerial” behavior. According to Cameron and Green, the most effective leaders used all five roles, depending on the scenario.

I recommend that you read this book for two reasons. First, the book is not limited to leaders in charge of teams or organizations. The role-based leadership paradigm is useful to people on every level of the organization. Advice and insight on leadership approaches that the authors provide to someone in Senior Management can be useful to a member of her staff. Using this paradigm, a member of staff can become someone who is responsible for their own situation by asking questions about why things are done the way they are (Edgy Catalyzer) and inspiring others around them to help them do something about it (Visionary Motivator).

Secondly, I recommend the book because the paradigm gives leaders room to grow and stretch their abilities without feeling that they have to completely revamp their personality. The book provides a Self-Assessment so that you can understand which roles you use and how frequently you use them. Then it provides exercises and examples of situations in which you can practice the role. At the end of the book, you understand where you are on the path to becoming a better leader, what gaps you need to fill and what steps you need to take to grow. This is a book to put in your personal library.


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