Which means we all have the ability to provide leadership in some way: as professionals, as parents, as spouses, and as friends. To find a reason to want to lead we only need remember that when we provide leadership, we create value. And value creation creates happiness. Few things bring as much satisfaction as a job well done. They opposed the centralization of authority in the revolutionary leadership, agitating for moderation and “democracy”, and they enacted a number of important social reforms.
We are re-evaluating leaders, downgrading those who are guided by history, not vision; by what they know, not what they can find out; by what has worked before, not what works now; by a sense of power, not a sense of people. From experience, I draw these 19 types who are less than real leaders:
- Manipulator. He believes everyone has a price. He exploits the system and mistrusts people who have no hidden agenda or naked ambition or who appear to be straight arrows. Whatever his self-indulgence, he expects it to be reflected in his people. He is attracted to those who display similar inclinations. Using fear and intimidation, he manipulates people.
- Frustrated Participant. He wants to believe in the system and sees himself as dedicated, loyal, and ambitious. He absorbs inconsistency in policy, flagrant violation of fairness, and blatant duplicity without protest or complaint, feeling he must protect the company’s image. He anticipates his boss’ needs, whether appropriate or not, feeling that it is safer to go along to get along rather than to challenge a boss.
- Inside Outsider. He experiences inclusion, but not as a player. Ever the outsider, he is a specialist with skills but never with line authority. He may have impressive credentials, pay his dues, and be initiated into the culture of the elite, but he is never identified by it as “one of us.” Much as he tries to enhance his status, his unique skills only exaggerate the difference, eclipsing his perceived effectiveness. So, he experiences being needed but not wanted. If he can handle this, he will be tolerated. If not, he will lose his influence and his station.
- Winning Side Saddler. He is a pyramid climber, pleaser, anticipator, and executer, dispatching issues before they become problems, endearing him to his bosses. He is a chameleon with no coherent point of view, a hunch player who knows every verse of the “CYA” book. He tells you what you want and expect to hear. The more uptight people are, the more prominent his role, as he provides a buffer to the ugly edges of reality. In case of a power shift, he has already saddled the winning horse.
- Nostalgic Elitist. He is a vestige of past glory who lives in a black-and-white world of workers and managers, thinkers and doers, educated and the ignorant. He takes cynical delight in the vocabulary of “social change,” as he sees it changing nothing, merely manipulating fads and slogans with smoke and mirrors. He prefers fixed structures and closed systems. He can’t fathom why his authority is challenged, why the less gifted are to be treated as equals, or why his superiority is not self-evident.
- Waiter in the Wings. He appreciates both his potential and obstacles to success. While others complain about change, he is husbanding his resources, planning tactics, and developing strategy. he has no plans to tie his future to a sinking ship. Operationally, he makes himself indispensable, balancing stealth with openness, insouciance with results. He is waiting in the wings to make his move. As relaxed as he seems, he is wound as tight as piano wire. He can only wait so long before he moves on.
- Happy in Harness. He accepts his role because he loves what he does, never wanting to be anything else. Each promotion is a genuine surprise. By nature, he is appreciative and generous, easy to work with or for, competent without being righteous, confident without being arrogant. He creates a climate for growth. He is trusted and fair, consistent and honest. He would never countermand an executive order or bad-mouth a superior. He takes pride in his position.
- Quiet Soldier. He is more comfortable as a follower and identifies with the aspirations and frustrations of his subordinates. By inclination, he is a doer rather than a thinker, an implementer rather than, an innovator. He is a frustration to those in charge. They see him having the talent but not the resolve to accept risk or do more. Moody and taciturn, he is apt to accept untenable situations rather than do something about them. His predilection to wait for orders can derail projects and miss deadlines.
- Victim. The victim has a martyr complex. He expects to be trusted without being trustworthy, given cherished assignments without being dependable, and taken at his word without being credible. Call it tunnel vision, myopia, or hindsight, he has it. He delights in the failures of others, but finds no humor when others delight in his. When others fail, they’re incompetent; when he fails, others let him down. He claims other people ban him because of his race, religion, ethnicity, status, education, accent, or origin. If that fails, he is discriminated against because he is too fat, thin, short, tall, old, young, quiet, or loud. He justifies his performance—and he wants blame put on everything and everybody.
- Unbending Idealist. He idealizes life and lives in a dream world. He is a product of film and television and prefers to see the world as it should be and himself as a savior of lost causes and lost souls, explaining away failures and suspect conduct. Consequences are suspended, forgiven, or ignored. The idealist suffers incurably from naivete, failing to see it as compassionate condescension. With every failure he reinvents himself, never seeming to register the folly of his ways. His idealism drops like a stone into cynicism once brutal reality meets unbending idealism.
- Adventurer. Consumed with the adventure, he is out to push the envelope. When cornered, he comes out swinging with a “red pencil,” a caustic remark, or an exception to the rule. He can lie with a straight face, looking his accuser in the eye. He has no sense of consequences, as it never occurs to him that he might be caught, humiliated, and terminated. Constantly challenging himself to be more sensational, he cuts corners, fakes results, doctors the books, invents fictitious deeds, and musters the support of legitimate doers by guile, vanity, and flattery.
- Spin Doctor. As the public relations conduit, he is the eyes and ears and voice of authority. His concern—to put a good face on a bad situation—requires him to be a good liar. He tends to reduce everything to PR speak with cavalier flamboyance, dismissing the facts, often believing in his own rhetoric or press release. He is apt to be a quick-witted, congenial, backstage performer.
- Reluctant Soldier. Neither leader nor follower, he simply is. Everyone knows and tolerates him. No one expects anything from him, and nobody does anything about him. He’s been at the same job at the same level for years and received increased compensation and entitlements for doing less and less. Survival is his sharpest tool.
- Unforgivable Prodigal Son. This person once stumbled badly. His faux pas was of such magnitude to embarrass the company but not warrant dismissal. Once he was punished, he returned to his job stigmatized, and became a pariah with his guilt whispered behind his back. New people are told to stay clear of him. He tells new people of his crime before they ask. Gossip and innuendo are his weapons of mass emotional destruction.
- Over Achiever. By educating himself beyond his intelligence or by pushing his ambition to the brink, he is exposed to situations beyond his capacity to cope. Action is his call and shooting from the hip is his modus operandi. He has a surface acumen that is engaging and catches the eye of his superiors. His intensity is contagious. He is likeable and agreeable. He has lived so long with his limitations, which he hides in a swirl of activity, that they have become assets. He is better suited to manage things than people.
- Messianic Manager. He sees himself as a savior. His approach to modify reality is to create the culture that supports the interests of the organization and fulfills the needs of workers and, voila! Leaders and workers get off the dime, move on to the same page, and work gets done. He thinks that giving workers everything but the kitchen sink will cause them to applaud leadership with high-level performance. This does not happen. Rather, the culture stumbles into a permissive complacency, where workers waffle in terminal adolescence.
- Pained Participant. He is able, but the world is organized against him. A tragic figure, he is like a Dante who has lost the keys to his own inferno, caged in the pain of self-pity, seeing his situation as unique and his dilemma untenable. He wrestles with his confusion in dialectic, which he will gladly share with you. Life is against him because he doesn’t have the right parents, proper education, or the breaks. He is in a cage of his making with an invisible ceiling enclosed in invisible walls. Life, the system, the company, circumstances have all wronged him. His anxieties plague operations.
- Missionary. He spreads the gospel according to the corporate fathers to the masses. He does this without question or reflection. He is an acolyte, and they are his knowing masters. When this mission is consistent with what is needed, everything works smoothly. When the mission conflicts with need, derailing momentum and causing tension, he takes responsibility. He is on a mission to help people be in sync with policy. He has a strong character but a narrow point of view.
- The Professional. The professional’s degree and title are often used to justify his pay grade and benefit package. He is rarely schooled in the discipline of his charges but believes that he can manage anything. He feels ordained to position, power, and perks. He has this romantic notion of being instantly gratified with affluence, prestige, privilege and trust without earning any of it. Lost on him is the import of experience and the benefit of failure in learning. For him, acquiring credentials is a way to avoid struggle and pain. He wants a position, not a job; desires authority without accountability; and expects to be measured in terms of time spent doing rather than results. To him, having presence is more effective than purpose; making an impression more defining than making a difference; having a winning personality more the focus than winning performance. He is programmed to behave in learned helplessness.
Contrast these types of leaderships with someone who genuinely believes themselves to be a capable leader. Such a person can recognize their mistakes without succumbing to paralyzing insecurity. They can counterattack pleas for inappropriate special treatment lacking fair justification because to give in wouldn’t fit with their vision of good leadership and because they can survive being disliked. Others may disagree with their decisions, disapprove of their vision, but seldom question their skills as a leader.