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Your Leadership style is your IP

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Leadership styles have emerged as an area of focus for Board’s, Investors and Regulators. It’s also become auditable and answerable to employees and customers in an increasingly networked global economy. The social brand index of companies today is also rated on leadership styles and is related to possible outcomes of corporate strategy.

Recent news of Satya Nadella's relaxed collegial style, which stands in stark contrast to the passionate, rally-the-army approach of Steve Ballmer is an ongoing demo of how important leadership style is. Neither style is right or wrong in the big picture …. Just different. Question is “Which style is right for you?”

Leadership is about a vision of the future and the ability to energize others to pursue it. Getting the vision executed is about teams and methodologies which leaders wield to realize the goals.

Global Indian and Glocal corporations are increasingly challenged with the question – “What’s our leadership style?” “Do we need one style for our global business? and one for our local?” “Do we need to equip our leaders differently for different markets?” “Is our style very aggressive for a market ?” “Is our leader perceived a rock star?!?” “Do we need to find our own leadership style?” “Which leadership style is most critical for us right now?”

Following leadership styles are found in most Global corporations - Directive, Participative, Empowering, Charismatic and Celebrity.

Increasingly we realize that leadership styles have a lot to do with culture. For most  enterprises  the culture of the country where the Firm originates from,  dictates leadership style.

Directive style of  leadership is usually found in  Indian or Asian, Entrepreneur /Family driven firms. This has a lot to do with the history of  the country,  social hierarchies, feudal/patriarchal culture and years of being ruled by various empires. Such styles also reflect in the importance given to positions in the organization,  communication tones, team working etc. Such companies draw their “leadership authority” by influencing the social and political environment to benefit them. Such top down organizations very often struggle with growth beyond home markets and areas where their political influence is limited. Growth and development of employees are at the whim of the “masters” and it encourages and nurtures servility and sycophancy in them. These employees , having ingrained this behavior, flounder and drown, if and when the leadership style changes to ensure survival of the organization.        

Participative leadership, which involves close teamwork with others, is more common in Europe, where it is sometimes required by law ( Germany, Nordics). Consensus building, easy communication, low internal competition and anti-hierarchical organization structures are some of the distinct features of this style of management. Such organizations usually reflect high innovation, market growth and knowledge development. The leaders here especially in German and Nordic organizations are accepted due to “technical/knowledge competence superiority” Participative leadership styles are  also found in Asia in Japan and competitively they compare close to the European counterparts in terms of Innovation and Knowledge management. The hierarchy supports “the most technically competent man for the job” as the leader. While participation is encouraged, there is a strong acceptance of the “competence superiority” of the leader

Empowering leadership style is a recent phenomenon and stresses delegation of responsibility and accountability to subordinates. It’s a style driven by new age entrepreneurship, working multi- cultural teams, time zones, active investors on the board and usually found in Hi -Tech and Innovation lead companies and institutions. These companies are usually located in the USA (west coast), have young leaders and a very steep strategic growth path. It builds leaders at every level. It encourages risk taking, decision making but most importantly ownership for the growth of the organization.

Charismatic and Celebrity leadership is the leader who looks like a Leader. People follow them because of who they are, not because of good management or even business success or being offered participation, partnership, or empowerment. Human magnetism is the thing, and it is very different in different national cultures. Very often we hear reports of Board’s agreeing to hire someone who looks like a Million Dollar CEO. It works for cultures, industries or nations where the Leader Brand Persona is everything.

Leadership styles tend to have a top down trickle effect. Autocratic leaders expect “yes men” as managers who in turn expect the same from their subordinates. Employees see this as the acceptable behaviors the organization wants them to demonstrate and flow continues downward.

No Style is right or wrong, the question again is “Which style does your organization need RIGHT NOW?” “Which style is right for YOU?” As organizations grow, peak, stabilize and grow again, they need different leadership styles for all these different stages of growth.

In an increasingly small world, with the overlap of cultures, integrated global and glocal companies, how do we manage the growing need to having the right kind of leaders at the right time for an organization?

Research has shown the following key qualities that people seek in a successful leader:

  • Passion
  • Decisiveness
  • Conviction
  • Integrity
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Toughness
  • Emotional Resonance
  • Self-Knowledge
  • Humility


Chrysalides is a change enabling firm. We enable your firm to find the most suitable style of leadership for your teams and your markets. Your leaders need to be equipped in building a leadership style which reflects your ethos of doing business.

Your Leadership style is also your IP. 

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Well written Sheelika.This piece holds great relevance in today's times where a new "type" of a leadership style seems to be creating a buzz in the corporate world every fortnight. What you've put forth is simple and insightful - An effective Leader is truly the one who is able to flex his style based on the context.

Extremely interesting and insightful. In these constantly changing times leadership needs to evolve too.

Very well written.

Very true Sheelika. My observation about the leadership style here in Germany fits in with what you say. Broadly speaking, the leader decides (not always through concensus though), communicates the goal and then leaves it to each one to decide how they achieve it. Naturally everyone from leader down is 'competent', suitably trained and expected to deliver independantly, efficently, fast and without mistakes.

Brilliant written and very insightful.Thanks for sharing .

An interesting read and perspective. Very true in the context of organisations i have worked with. Would love more information on the research on qualities of leaders! thank you for sharing

Nicely written article and thought provoking too. Each organization has to do that critical analysis for themselves on what they desire in their leader. A Leader for me is someone who will rally behind his/her people and take them along in achieving their vision.

Very well written and insightful Sheelika. Different leadership styles may get better results in different elements. There is no one formula, its also how effectively a leader manages and uses his style to bring about that change.

Very well written and insightful Sheelika. Different leadership styles may get better results since the contexts are different too. As you rightly point out, No style is right or wrong, there is no winning formula...its also how effectively the leaders manage and use their styles.

An insightful note. Will certainly help in understanding and molding one's leadership style with changing times and changing firm ideologies.