Four Types of Leadership Defining the Dynamics
Leadership is a more than just being a good person and touching people’s lives. And while we must do those things too, at its core leadership is about taking a group of people great places—like a coach who leads a team of basketball players to victory.
What if you don’t have a team, can you still lead individuals? Or what if it’s just you right now, can you still lead yourself? Of course, and we must. However, in each of these cases the dynamics of your leadership change. And some aspects of traditional leadership may be irrelevant, like teamwork for example.
In this article, I want to clarify four types of leadership in which we can engage and grow.
- Self-Leadership: taking yourself to a great place.
- Individual Leadership: taking someone with you to a great place.
- Non-Positional Group Leadership: taking a team or a group of which you are a member to a great place.
- Positional Group Leadership: taking a team or organization of which you are at the helm to a great place.
So do the same principles apply to all four types of leadership? And as students of leadership, how do we define different dynamics in our various roles as leaders?
While this term is widely accepted and in many regards makes sense (that you first need to lead yourself, or take yourself to great places), I prefer to think of self-leadership as personal growth. The reason I avoid the common term is that the word leadership is already so commonly used. Leadership principles directly relate to how we lead others. So I believe when we talk about developing ourselves as leaders, we are most accurate when we refer to it as personal growth. Nevertheless, self-leadership is common, and for that reason I will include it here as the first type of leadership.
This type of leadership is about making a positive impact on everyone you know as individuals. Individual leadership does not involve a team or organization. Rather we are aiming to touch the lives of individuals regardless of our positions or authority in their lives. It could be a friend, sibling, parent, child, or coworker.
Is simply being a good person, or just helping others, considered leadership? Making a positive impact on others, taking them to great places, because of your influence is at the heart of leadership. While many tenants of leadership such as culture, team, vision, strategy, don’t apply at this level, individual leadership should be regarded as a very powerful leadership role.
Non-Positional Group Leadership
Non-positional group leadership is about leading a team or some other group of people to which you belong. Here, you don’t have an official leadership position, but you aim to lead (impact and influence) the group in positive ways.
Many core leadership principles apply here, and often times toward hugely successful ends. Examples of this type of leader include Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They never had dedicated leadership positions. But by any measure they were more effective than most official leaders.
Even without an official position in a group you are in, your leadership can have lasting ripple effects. You may be a small voice that affects a few people. Or you may be such a strong voice, you overshadow even the positional leaders.
Positional Group Leadership
This is the traditional type of leadership where one holds a dedicated position at which everyone is looking to be the leader. You are in the arena, and your level of leadership will be measured by everyone. You may be at the very top, or have some other key position in the group you lead.
And roles can grow and evolve. Nelson Mandela went from a non-positional group leader to the president of South Africa. In each role, his leadership was immense. But in the latter, the scope of his responsibilities changed.
Positional group leadership is where the rubber meets the road. When you have a recognized position of authority over a team or organization you are expected to lead. The responsibility is clearly on your shoulders, and you must be ready to lead—whether you are the boss, the parent, the pastor, or the president.
Why is it important to know the difference between these four types? Because when you focus on each type’s specific required skills, you are more likely to succeed in that area. My target with the WesMD blog is to help you succeed in all four areas of leadership, however my specific focus (target audience) are those who are currently in, or aspire to be in, a positional group leadership role. The positional role is your time in the limelight. That’s usually when so many lives are under your command. It is at that time more than any other, that I wish for you to succeed.
Keep impacting your world!
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