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Beware the ‘Heathrow Airport’ school of leadership

Beware the ‘Heathrow Airport’ school of leadership

 The MBA for leadership blaggers – Part 3

In "It’s about the people, stupid" and The Bad Smell we whisked you through centuries of leadership thinking in two bite sized blogs.  Now let’s go for another quick spin through history, this time of the more modern variety. The big 5 theories are:

  •       Trait theory
  •       Behavioural theory
  •       Contingency theory
  •       Transformational theory
  •       Authentic leadership

Today we’ll take a look at the first two.

Trait theory: assumed there were a set of specific characteristics, or traits, that made a leader successful and that these could be measured, and perhaps developed.  When the studies ran their course, however, the conclusion that leaders were slightly taller than average, slightly more intelligent and slightly more confident showed this was another load of rubbish!

Behavioural theory: as they ran out of steam in their search for traits, they turned to what leaders did and the behavioural theory of leadership was born.  Surely we could learn to copy the best leaders and become great ourselves?  This is where we saw the birth of the ‘Celebrity Chief Exec' - and their autobiographies were used like leadership manuals.  They all said something like, “if you want to be a great leader then you need to be like ME! Think the way I think, speak the way I speak, dress the way I dress, behave the way I behave.  In fact, if you’re going to be great what you really need is a frontal lobotomy!  Only then can you achieve great things and become truly great leader. Watch and learn.”  At the time many would dread the holiday season, when their boss would pop into a bookshop at Heathrow airport for the latest edition to read on the plane - and come back trying desperately hard to lobotomise themselves.  Generally speaking it was a complete disaster, then eventually it would wear off and everyone breathed a sigh of relief – until the next book! The wise ones learned to buy their boss a novel to take on holiday.

Brilliant leadership can be learned – but not by trying to be someone else.  How much of what you do is simply an attempt to be something you’re not?  You don’t need to be better at being somebody else – just get better at being you.


Image by David Ritter, freeimages.com

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