What are the different forms of leadership and how are they related?

I believe leadership has many forms and it is possibly different from what most people view leadership as. Most people think of leaders as being within their profession or places they work. Oftentimes leadership is compartmentalized as having a starting and ending place within work. Leadership actually takes place in many facets of everyone’s lives. You can be a leader within your family, friend group, church, civic group, community, or social group. Leadership at work also has many different levels from traditional leadership, like leading teams or an organization. I believe that leadership starts out as leading yourself as a self-leader, which moves into leading others as a team leader and scaling that up to being a leader of multiple teams or an organizational leader.

When we start as a self-leader, we are more focused on building skills that will benefit us and help us to be more effective in our tasks. A self-leader may also be interested in enhancing different skill sets that are also valuable as a leader. These range from skill acquisition, competence and getting better at handling tasks, and learning how to work well with others. A self-leader may focus on making oneself the best at the job that they are doing right now.

Next, the self-leader may transition into a leader who is leading teams. This is typically based on one’s proficiency within a certain area and the more that one progresses and excels as an individual it becomes the easier transition to becoming a team leader and helping others grow and develop their skills. It is the hope that as a team leader, you will not only be able to complete tasks well but will also be expected to be aware of others and what skills or areas of growth they can accomplish to help the success of the team.

One example of this idea is ‘the grit and the gears’ when we are trying to get something done, whether it be a project or we have a deadline to meet, if grit goes into the gears, it stops or slows the progress from moving forward. Meaning as team leaders we must look at our team and see if someone or something, in particular, is impacting the performance of the whole team. This can be skills-based, personality-based, or even a conflict between people on a team. Figuring out a way for team members to work through problems is like greasing the gears for more optimal performance. A good team leader can and should be learning about their people and how they interact with what is going on around them and finding ways to help each of them perform at their best.

Lastly, we move up to an organizational leader. At this level of leadership, one is diagnosing and seeing how teams are working together to get things done. Each level of leadership creates a new form of complexity. The fundamentals are the same; each level will need to have the grit removed to function properly and perform at its best. It’s important that organizational leaders start to hone their people skills, are good communicators, and are good listeners. Which will make them more successful leaders.

In summary, as we progress along the continuum from self-leadership to team leadership, to organizational leadership our developmental focus moves from functional skills to people skills. We also learn how to handle increased levels of complexity and uncertainty along this continuum. Underpinning this transition is the need for self-awareness and empathy which are building blocks of our ability to communicate with others effectively and authentically.