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Chapter 2: The Strongman, Transactor, Visionary Hero, and SuperLeaderGeneral Dwight D. Eisenhower had a high opinion of the potential of the common man. In 1967 he wrote:"In our Army, it was thought that every private had at least a second lieutenant's gold bars somewhere in him and he was helped and encouraged to earn them .... I am inclined by nature to be optimistic about the capacity of a person to rise higher than he or she has thought possible, once interest and ambition are aroused."
Since he thought well of others, he intuitively understood the advantage of sharing information with subordinates. For example, he wrote that "The Army . . . as far back as the days of von Steuben, learned that Americans either will not or cannot fight at maximum efficiency unless they understand the why and wherefore of their orders."
Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian-born American general during the Revolutionary War, found that American soldiers required something special to fight at maximum efficiency. In other words, these soldiers required leadership that matched their personal goals to reach the targets of the army. To that end, von Steuben modified his own European-based command practices, trying to understand the individual American soldier's role and motivation.
This optimistic viewpoint of man-in-general is a fairly common characteristic of SuperLeaders. They seem to have unlimited faith that, if given the opportunity to perform, most people will come through.
What is your viewpoint of the "common man"? How do you think your followers are likely to react if given the opportunity for independent responsibility? How much time and effort do you spendpreparing your followers for self-leadership? The way you answer these questions is likely to be very strongly predictive of your own leadership. Can you prepare your followers to work in a creative and independent mode?
Whenever we think of leadership, we typically think of some category or type of leader. Often we call this "leadership style." What we are usually talking about is a pattern of behaviors that together we can think of as "style" or "type." The previous story of Dwight Eisenhower represents a combination of types. Of course we think of him as a Visionary Hero type, but we also think of him as a SuperLeader.
In this chapter we define four prominent types of leaders: the Strongman, the Transactor, the Visionary Hero, and the SuperLeader. One purpose of this discussion is to ask yourself the question: "What type of leader am I?" And further, "What type of leader do I want to be?"
What Is Leadership
There is an old Norse word, Laed, meaning "to determine the course of a ship." Our modern word "to lead" clearly is derived from this ancient Viking expression. And it's easy to think of the CEO of our contemporary organization as one who determines the course of the ship or, in this case, organization. But in the business environment of the 21st century, how should this guidance take place? Today we describe many organizations as consisting of clusters and flows of "knowledge" and "information" and as being staffed by "knowledge workers." This introduces a challenging question for leadership: What kind of leader do we need in order to create and lead the knowledge workers of the 21st century?
Clearly, the word leadership itself is value-laden. We usually think of the word in positive terms, one who has a special capacity. Most of us would rather be a "leader" than a "manager," or a "leader" rather than a "politician." Sometimes the word leadership refers to a role rather than behaviors. We recently heard an executive from Xerox, for example, refer to the Xerox managers as "the leadership." Personally, we are not comfortable with this definition because it implies that those in the lower ranks are not leaders-and in fact, this book is about the diffusion of leadership throughout an organization, not just at the top. Some of the most remarkable leaders of all time have not had the benefit of formal position to support their leadership.
There are hundreds of definitions of leadership. But to us, fundamentally leadership means influence-the influence of people. This is a broad definition, and would include a wide variety of behaviors intended to influence others. In this chapter we briefly define and discuss various ways of influencing others-that is, different types or "styles" of leadership. Later throughout the book we focus mainly on SuperLeadership, a particular kind of empowering leadership that concentrates on leading others to lead themselves.
Most leadership perspectives view the leader as the only source of influence. The leader leads (influences/ and followers follow (are influenced. This leader-centric view of influence was adequate for hundreds of years but, especially recently, many limitations of this view have emerged. In the 21st century the challenge of influence has indeed passed over a new threshold that views leadership in a whole new light. In this chapter we trace some of the primary types of influence that have defined most leadership practice for several decades, and even centuries. Each of the types we discuss is still alive and well in many settings, and each still has a place in the leader's repertoire. Yet, all too often, poor choices are made regarding which leadership types are used in specific situations and which are emphasized the most overall.
In the past, especially in our book Company of Heroes, we used the terms Strongman, Transactor, Visionary Hero, and SuperLeader to identify different leader types. Here we continue with these...