Leaders are not a breed of their own; leaders are an entire species made up of diverse breeds that are identified by their distinguishing behaviors and characteristics. As I have studied leadership development and inched my way into this domain, I have found it curious that leaders are often regarded as one homogeneous group. How does this approach account for diverse leadership styles and the unique demands associated with different roles within different organizations? Does it account for those individuals who simply have a fire in their belly to make a difference, but don’t necessarily feel like they fit into the conventional world of professional leaders? I fear that many driven professionals are left to wonder where they belong.
I don’t know why, but I’m a leadership nerd. I am constantly thirsty to know more about what great leadership looks like and what great leaders are doing to make a difference. At times I’m inundated with content from online journals, magazines, newsletters, webinars, and professional publications like this one.
Yes…I’m guilty! I know!
Unfortunately, my longing for knowledge and understanding leaves me suffering from a perpetual sense of inadequacy. There is no possible way that I can exemplify all of these characteristics or implement all of these strategies!
So, as usual, instead of being overwhelmed by my inability to do it all, I coach myself through the process of going back to the basics.
Why am I the way I am?
How have I been created differently from those around me?
What purposes am I intended to fulfill by embracing my unique qualities?
I have to remind myself that falling short is not defined by my inability to do it all, but falling short is defined by not fully realizing my own unique potential. During this self-coaching process, as I attempt to untangle my insecurities and embrace my realities, I find it helpful to reflect on my own distinguishing traits and how they may fit into the broader classification of heterogeneous leaders.
So what are some of these “breeds” and what are the distinguishing behaviors and characteristics that set them apart?
THE DRIVER – Those who propel movement
This leader is someone who gets in the car, puts the key in the ignition, buckles up, and immediately puts their foot on the gas. This person has an idea and executes without hesitation. People who have worked with this leader have noticed that one day everything is under control and the next day the leader has rounded up a whole team of people to work on an initiative that becomes the center of attention. The Driver’s motivation is productivity. Not only is this leader good at mobilizing people to get things done, but the process itself is what they love.
THE ATTACKER – Those who tackle and conquer
This leader is someone who minds their own business until an intruder comes on their property and then they attack. This person cannot stand for something to not be as it should…especially when there is a solution in sight. When this leader notices a problem or observes a need, it won’t be long before something is happening to take care of business. The Attacker’s motivation is solving problems. This leader will mobilize the troops to make sure the issue-at-hand is addressed one way or another.
THE GIVER – Those who rise to the challenge set before them
This leader is someone who would rather not be a leader, but something in them says “I could help with that”. The Giver often gets his/her moment in the absence of The Drivers and Attackers, but is no less of a leader than the rest. This individual does not stand down in the face of fear, but rather steps up. The Giver’s motivation is service. This leader generates movement around a common goal more naturally than all the rest because they deeply believe in what they are doing and their humility is the leadership quality that draws others to jump on board.
A Leader’s Identity:
I believe a valuable leader is someone who successfully mobilizes people around a common goal to effectively and efficiently get things done. Some leaders demonstrate leadership tendencies early in life, while others may never consider their own leadership abilities until someone else draws attention to these qualities. Nevertheless, at some point these individuals start working with people to get things done, and when they do, certain behaviors and characteristics define that experience.
As you read this, you may find that you are a mixed breed, and some may better identify as a “mutt.” Your leadership origin, characteristics or motivating factors might not be like your neighboring leader, but for some reason something stirs within you to rally people around a common goal to get things done. Not everyone experiences that inner stirring, so whether you are a Driver, Attacker, Giver, or “mutt,” you have an important role in the lives of those around you. As we all strive to grow together as a strong and healthy mixed assortment of leaders, we will learn from one another while resting in the truth that our success lies within fulfilling our own unique purpose. Lead on!