Saturday, April 09, 2005

Are you a Manager or a Leader? Seven ways of leading

I guess most of us would agree that being a good manager or being a good leader are two different things (although you see the terms mixed up in many books and articles).
In the Harvard Business Review of April, consultant David Rooke and professor William Torbert distinguish a spectrum of no less then seven ways of leading / managing, ranging from not the not very effective opportunist style to the superb "alchemist" style of leading:
  1. Opportunist - Wins any way possible: Good in managing emergencies and sales.
  2. Diplomat - Avoids overt conflict: Good in bringing people together.
  3. Expert - Rules by logic and expertise: Good as individual contributor.
  4. Achiever - Meets strategic goals: Good in managerial roles, action and goal oriented.
  5. Individualist - Interweaves competing personal and company actions logics: Good in venture and consulting roles.
  6. Strategist - Generates organizational and personal transformations: Good transformational leaders.
  7. Alchemist - Generates social transformations: Good at leading society-wide transformations.

Your type of leading is determined according to Rooke and Torbert by your action logic (=ways in which you interpret your surroundings and react when your power or safety is challenged).

Most interestingly, it is possible to change from one type / stage of leading in the spectrum to the next stage. External events (promotion, organizational change) can cause a transformation from one stage to another, but it can also be done actively by recognizing the style you currently are exhibiting and actively wanting to change it.

For example moving from expert to achiever can be done by following an MBA program, which are apt to encourage the development of the more pragmatic Achievers by frustrating the perfectionist Experts. The heavy workloads, use of multidisciplinary and ambiguous case studies, and teamwork requirements all promote the development of Achievers. By contrast, MSc programs, in particular disciplines such as finance or marketing research, tend to reinforce the Expert perspective.

The article in the HBR contains more information about how you can go from one specific stage to the next. There exists also a book by the authors called: Action Inquiry: The secret of Timely and transforming Leadership (Berret-Koehler, 2004). If you have read the book, it would be nice if you add a review in the Comments.