Bare Knuckles Ag ™

Sorting Out The Best Leadership Styles Today Part II

This is Part 2 of a 5-part series on the most effective leadership styles in an age where we now have up to four distinct generations in the workplace at the same time. They range from 20-somethings (Generation “Z”) to Millennials in their 30s, Gen X’ers in their 40s, Boomers in our late 50s to 60s and even a sprinkling of 70-somethings at the tail end of the WW II generation who founded their companies and can’t let go! The thing that’s REALLY rattling cages in Boardrooms across America, however, is a cultural divide developing between the Millennials and Boomers on which leadership styles are appropriate for the digital age of Big Data and “virtual” living (and working) via social media.

Who most needs an attitude adjustment in today’s workplace?  “Millennials” on their way up … or Boomers planning a graceful exit?


In Part 1,  I outlined 12 different business leadership styles identified by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Over my 40-year career, I’ve either experienced or practiced every one of those styles. My goal in this 5-part series is still the same; an update of a popular presentation I’ve done over the years on “How to Become a Leader People Follow”.

In this Part 2, I show how Rhea Blanken, a Fellow with ASAE,  winnows the list down  to 8 styles that are highly effective (either exclusively or in various combinations) depending on the three critical variables identified in Part 1 of this series:

  • The function of the leader.

  • The make-up of subordinates.

  • The challenge assigned to the leader.

Blanken, a successful business consultant herself ( utilizes different ID labels for some, but in reading through her descriptions I’m able to match them up with the corresponding styles from Part 1 to identify the 8 types that “made the cut” with Blanken: 1) Command & Control, 2) Innovative, 3) Transformational, 4) Pace-Setter, 5) Servant, 6) Laissez-faire, 7) Situational, and 8) Charismatic.

In my own experience, here is why I agree with the four types from the original 12 that didn’t “make the cut” to Ms. Blanken’s list. They have the following short-comings in all but rare business climates and situations in today’s workplace:

Strategic Leadership only works for the head of an organization or his/her top lieutenants. It often doesn’t work well for mid-level managers, department heads, task force leaders, etc. That’s because there must often be strategic shifts dictated from above by changes in the marketplace or actions by competitors, possible mergers and acquisitions, etc. that cannot be shared down to the rank-and-file or even mid-level managers prematurely. And if there are shifts in strategy that cannot be shared down the pipeline, and yet strategic shifts that require mid-level managers to announce changes in TACTICS down the pipeline without explanation, it can lead to confusion among the rank-and-file, second-guessing of superiors, grumbling, loss of confidence in the company direction, personal job insecurity … and people looking for opportunities elsewhere.

“Cross-cultural” leadership is almost doomed to fail, by definition. No leader can be all things to all people among the rank-and-file and expect to meet expectations of superiors on time and on budget. It implies a kind of multi-faceted “political correctness” that is dictated up the pipeline from a very diverse rank-and-file. There will be demands from various factions in a multi-cultural workforce that are patently incompatible and thus divisive by nature. It will lead almost inevitably to jealousy, resentment, unwillingness to cooperate, petty bickering, complaining and whining.

Transactional leadership reduces employees to “chore boys” or “chore girls. The leader comes to be viewed as little more than a “taskmaster”, assigning an endless series of specific tasks with specified goals and deadlines. Subordinates come to see themselves as little more than mindless servants and performers in a circus with their boss as ringleader. Like trained monkeys and seals they lose respect for the leader and fear only the lash of the whip (harsh criticism, embarrassment among peers, threats of dismissal, etc.) as motivation. Staff morale, performance and turnover are horrendous.

Visionary Leadership too often rings hollow when all the leader can do is share lofty goals and objectives but lacks the competence to develop effective strategies, tactics to reach them or draw around him those who can. There’s a huge difference between a leader who sees the term visionary as a noun and thinks that’s enough and one who sees the term as an adjective, which includes the wisdom to envision useful, profitable products or services and the strategic thinking and people skills to bring his/her visions to fruition!

In Part 3, I will show how yet another authority on effective leadership styles winnows out two more of the leadership styles, narrowing it down to the top six in her view, and why the two she leaves out haven’t worked well in my experience either!

REMINDER TO READERS: If you ever spot junk science, unfair attacks or fake news harmful to any of us in the global food chain, let me know and I’ll do my part to examine, expose and extinguish with Bare Knuckles!



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