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Do leaders have to be dominant to succeed?

Published:Monday | August 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMTrevor Smith


A question that arises consistently in leadership and team development discussions, is whether some behavioural styles are condemned to be followers while others naturally fall into leadership roles.

The 'S' style (steadiness - reserved/people-oriented) is the target of most of the questions and doubts about the capacity to lead effectively. I will use Jim Collins' eight traits of greatness in Good To Great, to discuss the S style and leadership. Collins studied 1,435 companies, and classified 11 as truly great. His pillars of greatness run counter to traditional thinking about successful leadership.

According to Amazon.com's review, "Making the transition from good to great doesn't require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy."


The 8 Keys To Greatness


Level 5 leadership: A level 5 leader displays a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. There is a downplaying of self combined with a strong commitment to being professional and to achieve shared objectives.

This is typical of S style behaviour. At times, it is difficult to distinguish who is the leader when observing the team in action. The 'S' style also strives to master whatever they do, and is one of the reasons for their desire to get into routines versus chopping and changing.

First who ... then what: There is a focus on having the right people in place and moving out people who are not a good fit.

Teamwork is at the heart of S style philosophy. Since trust is also central to S style outlook, the composition of the team is very important.

Confront the brutal facts: The Stockdale Paradox retains unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

Patience, persistence and healthy 'paranoia' are features of S style behaviour.

The hedgehog concept: Keep it simple. Focus on three intersecting circles: What you can be the best at in the world; what you are deeply passionate about; and what best drives your economic or resource engine.

While thinking about being a world-beater is not a natural feature of the S style make-up, passion and clarity about what works and what does not are central characteristics.

Culture of discipline: In a culture of discipline, people do not have 'jobs', they have responsibilities.

The S style is firm on keeping one's word and honouring commitments.

The flywheel: The path to greatness is similar to relentlessly pushing a heavy flywheel in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until you achieve breakthrough, and go beyond.

This is classic S style thinking. Steady, persistent progress as against gambling on dramatic wins.

Clock building, not time telling: Build an organisation that can adapt through multiple generations of leaders - the opposite of being built around a single great leader, great idea or specific program. Identify the key ingredients to drive sustainable progress rather than relying on a personality-driven culture.

The S style focus on sustainability helps avoid being attracted to traditional short-term gains. The downplaying of self runs counter to a reliance of personalities.

Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress: A values-driven existence. Keeping clear the distinction between "what we stand for" (which should never change) and 'how we do things' (which should never stop changing). Great companies have a purpose a reason for being that goes far beyond just making money, and they translate this purpose into BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) to stimulate progress.

The S style values community and embraces the greater good even at the expense of personal sacrifice.

Bottom line: People can craft an effective leadership strategy that embraces any behavioural style. Be yourself!

- Trevor E. S. Smith is a director of the Success with People Academy, home of the SHRM-accredited certified behavioural coach award (now enrolling) and 3-D Team Leader Certification: leading difficult, dominant and diverse personalities. The Success with People Academy applies DISCerning communication while improving recruitment & team performance. It prepares personal & team behavioural DNA Analyses and 360 surveys on the revolutionary FinxS Platform from Extended DISC.