Which Leadership Approach is Better?

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Dilbert is very clear on this topic! Still, I cannot help feeling that it would be a pity if business leaders would stop reading those books on “the rules of leadership”. Some of them never read anything, and maybe some of them are natural talents – born leaders – who cannot learn anything from others. But most of them both could and should…

The problem with leadership literature isn’t that it exists or that some leaders read it. The problem is that it claims to be the only truth, the silver bullet. And that leaders believe in that. In general, the hunt for just one simple formula for everything (see also my post on that topic) is what is wrong here.

Dilbert is very right, in my opinion, in stating that “every situation is unique and requires a different type of leader”. Actually, he thereby describes the only rock solid rule to follow for any leader: act upon the situation, not according to a fixed rule.

However, I would like to add another rule, which I hope will become just as rock solid one day – “respect for people”. Hmm…? But haven’t we heard about that one before? Yes, but somehow a lot of people – leaders and non-leaders alike – believe that this is a unidirectional rule, telling leaders to not be too harsh on their workers. I would like it to be extended into a multi directional rule, telling everybody to respect everybody – including both workers and other leaders to respect the leader and his/her individual treats.

Instead of having just two kinds of leaders: those who try to become standard leaders and those who do not care, why not just accept that there is a human being inside of every leader? Why not allow for leaders to behave like humans and have a personality?

I have seen examples in real life on how the group of leaders in a company tried to develop a standard behaviour, based on a set of standard leadership theories. They were, in fact, trying to become one mass of leadership, making it irrelevant which particular leader a worker was dealing with – the leaders’ acts and way of speaking should be exactly the same. The HR department spent a lot of time and energy on trying to teach and remodel all existing leaders, and it attempted to hire only those new leaders who were already close to the chosen model (and fired them again if they turned out to have a personality of their own).

In my opinion they could just as well have developed a computer program like Eliza – if you remember that one? A psychotherapist emulator based on simple rules on how to always reply with a question and how to use key words from what the client said in that counter-question. Eliza turned out to be a fun thing to talk to – for two minutes! After that, the poor clients got more and more annoyed with this kind of non-human dialogue.

We all want to talk to humans. We do not want to talk to machines. If a leader cannot be a human being with individual ways and thoughts, he/she cannot be a leader.

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17 Responses to Which Leadership Approach is Better?

  1. ANA ASOY-DURAN says:

    Sept. 9, 2013

    Dear Mr. Winther:

    It is really a pleasure to know of a person who is management consultant by profession, just wonder what location are you, Europe or USA? I am from the Philippines and there was a time that I have been fortunate to have been offered as an independent Management Consultant (part-time) by my contemporaries in the banking industry in Makati City Philippines- actually it was during my regular employment with Producers Bank of the Philippines (PBP rename to FirstBank now BDO) and Metropolitan Bank of the Philippines (Metrobank) , both Head Office as a former Management Analyst/Business Systems Analyst of our Systems and Procedures Department (Producers Bank of the Philippines) and Systems Division (Metropolitan Bank of the Philippines) respectively, and though I have various offers to venture into full time Management Consultancy services, I opted for regular employment to widen and enhance my knowledge and skills in banking operations (head office and branch operations) and the general management/ operations of other industry since I also have handled several companies of the Metrobank Group of Companies (subsidiaries/affiliates) with various scope of study/services from 1989-1999.

    Though it is with deep regret that I should leave the company to pursue another endeavor and at the same time to try my luck on a full-time management consultancy services (independent), I find myself for need for another field of study in other industry so I need to go back to regular employment in Metro Manila. Right now, I am back at my hometown (Davao City) hoping for another employment before venturing to my future endeavor of management consultancy (again) but with the desire to be with a team in a Management Consultancy firm/company.

    Do you have Management Consultancy office in Manila Philippines? How about submitting/ upload my Curriculum Vitae (CV) to your company email so as to evaluate if you can consider my qualifications to be part of your team. Once you will receive my CV, I would appreciate any suggestions for me to be considered as part of your company’s requirement and criteria. At the moment since I am idle, I would like to enhance my sales and marketing skills (again) as a Marketing Partner (single proprietorship business/company) independent dealer/distributor of a direct sales company in the Philippines (with branch in the Philippines) while I am currently residing at my hometown.

    Hope to hear from you soon. My email address for sending my CV duran.anaasoy@yahoo.com/ ana.asoyduran@yahoo.com) and my mobile phone is indicated on my CV but I am also using a different email for marketing purposes which is anaasoyduran_mktg@yahoo.com

    More power!

    ANA ASOY-DURAN

    • Ana, thank you very much for your comment and for showing interest for our company. The No Crisis Company is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Currently we have no plans on operating in the Philippines, even though it should be a very nice place, as far as I have heard.
      You are most welcome to send your CV, and should it ever be relevant, I will remember it. You could do something else as well or instead: if you are a LinkedIn user, please find and follow The No Crisis Company. And, if you like, you can connect to me there as well – to see my profile, click here. Finally, if you wish, you can follow this blog as well as the blog and news at The No Crisis Company website at nocrisis.dk. Through all this following you will be informed of all news, including new job offerings.
      I wish you good luck with your plans – through your comment above quite a lot of people will learn about you and possibly contact you. Hopefully there will be some with interesting job offerings.

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  5. normanrj2013 says:

    Jørgan,
    Thank you for your thoughtful blog post. You make a really good point that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to leadership tasks and situations.
    In fact, leadership is about mobilizing the various talents of your group for strategically aligned actions, no?
    Precisely why “one size does not fit all” is cogently described in FIRST, BREAK ALL THE RULES (1999) by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization, published by Simon & Schuster of UK, Ltd, London.
    I agree with you, Jørgan, based upon my understanding of the laws of nature (starting with psychology) as well as including others’ and my own observations, that effective leaders must in fact, “behave like humans and have a personality”!
    I’d like to rephrase one of your assertions and leading questions, Jørgan, to generate further discussion with us.
    Here is my re-phrase:
    Let’s recognize that there are at least three kinds of leaders: (1) those “who do not care,” that is, who will simply continue doing what they are doing, for good and for ill; (2) “standardized leaders,” who are trying to fit some mold (which can at least temporarily represent a constructive learning experience for stretching beyond one’s natural familiarities); and (3) those who understand and accept that there is a human being inside of every person, whether leading or following! Perhaps these group #3 leaders might be described as “platinum leaders,” if coining a term used by Dr. Tony Alessandra. (See THE PLATINUM RULE FOR SMALL BUSINESS MASTERY (2007) by Tony Alessandra, Ronald Finklestein & Scott Michael Zimmerman, published by the Platinum Rule Press, Barberton, Ohio.
    My question for readers of this blog is: Why not allow for all team members to behave like “leaders leading leaders” (to coin a phrase used adeptly by Jeffery Spahn, at ) — all very human and with various personalities?”
    I know my initial responses to my question raised. But first I am interested to learn others’ responses! — before I add any more of my “three cents!”
    My best.
    ~Norman

    • Thank you very much for your comment – and for providing some of the book titles, which Dilbert speaks about 🙂

      As I have not read any of the books you point at I just had a quick look at Amazon to see what they were about. “First, Break all the Rules” seems to be about talent and motivation – advising the leader to not believe that everybody can do everything, but instead to find and then further motivate the real talents. If I understood this right, i have to disagree with the book’s idea – to me, motivation comes from being heard and getting feedback, and “talent” is a too simplified label put on what others see as good and beneficial in someone’s acts. So the talent lives in the eyes of the observer, rather than being an intrinsic feature of the “talented”. One persons talent is another’s failure, so to speak.

      A funny thing about that book is that it calls for opinions, including those which Dilbert is being sarcastic about, like this short review from Amazon:
      It’s fact-filled and timely, yet it doesn’t get to the heart of why leaders are successful. It’s a great complementary book to your library, but I suggest getting a more practical book that may help you at work. I suggest a book I also ordered from Amazon and I have ordered copies for Everyone in my department. Check out “The Leader’s Guide: 15 Essential Skills.”
      Another leader who really wants to find that formula for everything – as easy as pie.

      I like your rephrase. It reminds me, though, of an old joke: “There are only two kinds of people – those who believe that there are only two kinds of people, and those who do not” 🙂 Categorizing things is a common way of simplifying, and I believe that the particular ways of categorizing are culturally determined (I wrote about this recently, in Danish, at No Crisis-bloggen). Simplification in business life can, however, ruin everything, as I wrote about in The KISS of Death.

      In general, dialogue and accommodation is more progressive and constructive than individual categorization – and that fits well with what you wrote about aligned actions. You could say that alligning actions is the very reason for being an organization – if it doesn’t work, the organization is useless and will eventually cease to exist.

      As for your final question: I agree! Let everybody take responsibility and lead their part or parts of the activities. Let also everybody assist each other in this. And then you have teamwork. But pay attention to those who do not work well, in teams and let them contribute in the ways they can do better – as W. Edwards Deming suggested.

    • ANA ASOY-DURAN says:

      April 4, 2014

      Hi Norman,

      Both you and Jorgen got a point about what leadership approach is all about. I really have high regards for professors and authors and definitely I am a follower of various books and articles with interesting topics ever since when I was a kid. I didn’t realized that I someday I will have the opportunity to enhance my research and writing/ communication skills after my graduation in college. Even up to the present time, I couldn’t help myself but to wish to be somebody that I always admired in their chosen field or what I want for my life (again)? It is not easy to shift careers or venture to something you think what is best for your future endeavor. I have been in the same field/industry (nature of job/work) for several years and it puzzles me at that time—asking myself, do i fit to the picture? I just realized then that working in one (1) company but been given the task/functions/responsibilities/authority level to be part of a core management group in coordination with various departments/units prior to management approval and implementation stage. Given various scope of study/projects for the parent company and subsidiary of the company where you are connected is really hard work. Part of my observations and study are behaviors/characters of individual employees and the organization problems to resolve the issues and improvement of the organizational structure. company policies. systems and procedures. forms design and improvement that would sometimes result to further study to organization change and to align with its current practices/leadership approach of the managers/department heads to their subordinates and innovative approach to business/market trends and technology. Perhaps the nature of my job/work has paved way to have been given the opportunity to accept the offer as a SYSTEMS SPECIALIST/MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT even at that time of my .regular employment on a part-time/freelance management consulting services with Consultant Partners of various field. When I left the same industry for many years of the same nature of work/job, I ventured to various industry and see for myself working in a small and medium size companies and again the opportunity for Management Consultant career was tempting at that time that I couldn’t say no—but still on a freelance scheme—though I have always long to be part of a reputable Management Consulting firm—a chance that I thought could be materialized when I have applied as a Management Consultant in Guthrie and Jensen Management Consultancy firm way back—I think that was between years 2005-20006 in Metro Manila then….maybe a follow-up can be made if I can made up my find – now I am stuck at my hometown Davao City finding myself to have lead a path of where I should be or sometimes thinking. am I enjoying my life doing nothing except research and though am I earning for doing nothing? Though still hoping for said future endeavor, I know plunging to a Management Consultancy career would mean you should keep abreast/updated with business/market trends and technology—asking myself again, when would that time come? If I cannot find (again) a job not in the capital city of Philippines, I would ask myself why not try freelance marketing, I am skeptical again knowing problems in the sales and marketing companies knowing at that time I also ventured to enhance my sales and marketing skills, so to speak not only as a seller but as a manager too.

      When I was a professor in one of the colleges (Montessori Professional Colleges-Pasig and Caloocan Campus) in Metro Manila Philippines as of SY 2006-2007. one of the subjects that I have taught is HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN ORGANIZATION and HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT and MARKETING and other subjects including Banking and Finance, Business Organization and Management and others —-for one (1) semester only but the experience to handle four (4) courses (Accountancy/Management/Office Management/Tourism with several faculty subject load is an added knowledge to look forward for my future endeavor. Sharing my knowledge and skills as a former Management Analyst/Business Systems Analyst in one of the top commercial banks in the country today and its Metropolitan Bank of the Philippines (METROBANK) Group of Companies from 1989-1999 and also as Systems/Procedures/Forms Analyst of Producers Bank of the Philippines rename to FIRST BANK now BDO from 1984-1989 in Metro Manila (MAKATI) Philippines but handling various bank branch operations positions from 1978-1984 in Davao City Philippines and also in various facets/aspects of management/operations/ HR, training and development and sales and marketing from year 2000-2007 including teaching profession is a worthwhile experience as an employee and a Management Consultant then….

      Anyway, I really would love to learn more from people like you with different field of expertise. Hope, someday—our knowledge and skills can be put into practice?

      ANA ASOY-DURAN

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  8. ANA ASOY-DURAN says:

    Jan. 9. 2014

    Hi….Other email of mine – anaad_1029@yahoo.com

    ANA ASOY-DURAN / ANA A. DURAN / ANA DURAN
    PHILIPPINES

  9. ANA ASOY-DURAN (Philippines) says:

    March 11, 2014

    Hi Jorgen,

    Any other thoughts of a better approach in leadership? I find your article ti be of helpful hint.

    It saddened me to have encountered or come across with some managers in a company to have personality problems. You think there are factors of such behavior? How can we rate nowadays for comparing a female leader to be more capable than male leaders? Would that create a chaos in the organization if some favor female leaders? I still have high regards for male managers — I know for a fact that there are more young male managers nowadays.

    Way back 2006-2007, I have been given the opportunity as College Faculty in one of the colleges in Metro Manila (Philippines) and one of the subjects that I taught is HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN ORGANIZATION and HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my views.

    ANA ASOY-DURAN

    • Hi Ana,

      Nice to see more comments from you! And I am very glad to hear that you enjoy my blog post.

      About personality problems, I am not sure what to think. On the one hand I want, of course, all managers – and all people in general – to behave well and always be respectful and helpful to others. On the other hand, showing this respect to others also necessarily leads to accepting that they are all individuals with each their own ways and styles of behaviour. So a “personality problem” will, in this respect, rather be a problem with lack of mutual understanding and thereby not really the problem of the one but a problem with the interactions between people.
      Som people do behave in ways that shows less interest in adapting to others, such as psycopaths. I am not sure that a psycopathic behaviour always has to be the result of really being a psycopath, as part of what you would expect from such a person is really what has been appraised with business leaders for ages. We expect, simply, an attitude of egoism and evil behaviour from our leaders, and those who want to be leaders sometimes copy this behaviour as a means to become succcesfuld.

      As I like individuals, I also like difference. More different people as leaders is better. Maybe female leaders is still considered to be unusual – and therefore different – in some places, but to me it is no longer anything to consider. Just the general behaviour of the person matters, not the gender. The same counts for people from different countries, having different religions, being of different age, heigh, or weight, or whatever. Most of such attributes really do not have anything to do with these people’s ability to function as leaders.

      These a very interesting topics that you have tought! Maybe you would like to write some blog posts on them?

      Jørgen

      • ANA ASOY-DURAN says:

        April 5, 2014

        Hi Jorgen,

        How can we resolve an issue that a lot of people is hacking my email address and likewise can’t access my email accounts, what could be the problem with the behaviors of these people? If you are the Management Consultant —what would be your assumptions? We know for a fact–with the nature of our work/job or functions in the organization, we need to research for a particular issues and one way is either online re4search, references/materials/books/articles/blog that would perhaps gave us an idea for evaluation/assessment to resolve issues and solve problems/

        What is your insights? I have different email accounts (employment/research/business/marketing/personal) all of yahoo accounts. Will appreciate your views. Thanks.

        ANA ASOY-DURAN

  10. Hi Ana,

    Sorry to hear about your email problems – a topic which in general deserves management attention but often is left for the individual or some frustrated IT supporter to handle.

    The technologies of an organisation, including communication technologies, must be fit for the purpose and should be a help for reaching the organisational goals. If they become a burdon or a source of trouble it is up to management to set directions – in this case often through a strategy and a policy for handling emails.

    The matter may resort to your IT department, if you have such one, but otherwise someone in manangement must accept the task and show responsibility.

    As for the technical elements of the solution on the emergent problem, my suggestion for a first step would be to contact your email provider, Yahoo, for suggestions. And in parallel, look at how your needs, your current use, and your way of handling security around passwords etc. are matching each others or not. Maybe you need a different solution alltogether, or maybe you nust need to adjust a bit on how you use the current one.

    When thinking ahead: Start by looking at your needs – then look for constraints (like price level, time available to spend on problem solving, etc.) – and then look for matching solutions.

    Kind regards,
    Jørgen

    • ANA ASOY-DURAN says:

      April 17, 2014

      Thanks Jorgen for your advise and I did that—how about a problem duplicating personality of a Facebook email account….many identities would claim for an original identity for said account? What could be the motives—negative or positive? Do you have any idea as to how to protect the password of a particular person of an email account? Do you think it is ethical for anybody to open an email without the permission of the person concerned? How could the system determine if the person’s email account that was being opened is the original identity of the person and the location?

      Honest to goodness, with the permission of my daughter for employment purposes—created a yahoo and Facebook account for which the password is only known to me. I do not know the password of my daughter’s yahoo email and Facebook email account.

  11. ANA ASOY-DURAN/ANA A. DURAN/ANA DURAN (Philippines) says:

    Sept. 6, 2014

    Hello there again Jorgen—it’s been long that I have not shared my views–anyway, just been busy with my freelance marketing to keep abreast with business/marketing trends and technology innovations but—lot of problems encountered.

    Just though accepting a freelance marketing offer at my hometown after my last employment as a College Professor/Program Director as of 2007 (commission basis only without salary/allowance) even if I don’t have a corporate job and freelance management consulting services (like I did before when I was still in Metro Manila Philippines) could be the solution since I have been idle/no work since 2008 to the present—can’t believe why local companies and companies with head office in Metro Manila with branches at my hometown will not hire me despite my qualifications even if available positions was sent to my email from Jobstreet.com and other search company..

    After my right leg operation as of 2008, I have talked to my daughter if she don’t mind to go back to teaching profession even if the salary is not compensating as to corporate jobs (managerial level positions) so the very first academe/school that I would like to impart my knowledge and skills to my hometown mates children as College Professor is the school where I graduated my Bachelors Degree (Bachelor of Science in Commerce major Accounting) and Ateneo de Davao University as a recipient of Recto Montinola as dependent of the employee (my father now deceased) of Amon TRADING Corporation and then applied again—other academe/schools but others got the job with my teaching profession experience and corporate/industry experience? After leaving my hometown as of 1984 (I was promoted as bank employee to our Head Office in Makati) though coming back as often as possible for a short span of time but only 2008 that I am currently residing for some reason or another to the present (long story) —so need to find a job at my hometown so as to go bac to Manila but noticed people at my hometown are indifferent and harass me and even to the point hack my email (employment/marketing/reference and research purposes), deprived my privacy.

    At that time when I opted to end my contact as a College Faculty in one of the colleges of Metro Manila (Pasig and Caloocan Campus) as of SY 2006-2007, have applied in other academe/schools and other companies (various industry/sectors) including as a full time Management Consultant with GUTHRIE JENSEN CONSULTANTS in Metro Manila Philippines because I believe of my capabilities and qualifications but of course, I know I need to upgrade my skills.

    Should you intend to expand your Management Consulting company or tie-up with other Management Consulting firms in the Philippines and you need additional management consultants, please consider my qualifications. You know where to contact me—duran.anaasoy@yahoo.com/anaad_1029@yahoo.com) and mobile phones 09124264534 and 09329471897.

    ANA ASOY-DURAN / ANA A. DURAN / ANA DURAN / ANA D. / AAD
    (Philippines born and resident)

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