The leadership journey

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- We encounter at least one leader daily; in the work place, family and in our social lives. From our parental figures during childhood, to our teachers, co-workers and television idols, leadership exists powerfully in our lives. Everyone has their own leadership style, whether it be personal, interpersonal or of the masses.

Leadership can merely be running your own life. Some people are born with the drive to lead. Some really have to work on developing their style. In both situations, developing a style and fine tuning it takes work and years of experience.

Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, expressed the importance of leaders in society.

"Men make history and not the other way around," said Truman. "In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."

James C. Georges of the ParTraining Corporation derived a simplistic but effective definition of leadership. "Leadership is the ability to obtain followers," he said.

In life, sometimes we get to pick the people we follow. In certain occupations, like military service, this is not always an option. I have been told on numerous occasions we can learn from all types of leaders, even the bad ones. The leadership characteristics you do not agree with can go in your tool box of characteristics you will never exhibit.

Leadership growth can be visualized as a flower. Each day a flower takes in the nutrients it needs from the environment and continues to flourish. We need to take in the events of our environment and look at them as a leadership growth experience. Just as the flower sloughs off its old petals, we can shed those experiences that do not help us grow. In doing so, we will become a vibrant product of our environment despite difficult circumstances.

According to Daniel Goleman's "Leadership That Gets Results", a landmark 2000 Harvard Business Review study, Goleman documented six different leadership styles he observed during his study of management: the pace-setting leader, authoritative leader, affiliative leader, coaching leader, coercive leader and the democratic leader.

Goleman describes the pace-setting leader as expecting and modeling excellence and self-direction. He said, "The pace-setting style works best when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. "

He describes the authoritative leader as one who mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual.

Goleman explains the affiliative leader as one who "works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization."

A coaching leader is one who develops people for the future, on the other hand, coercive leaders demand immediate compliance.

Finally, the democratic leader builds support through participation from followers.

Reflect back on your life and try to identify which leaders fit each title. Then challenge yourself to see which of these leaders you followed without any reservations.

An effective leader, in my opinion, is someone who encompasses a balance of six leadership styles and incorporates each when an event dictates a certain style.

It's important to keep balance in mind. These leadership styles can lead to negative results if taken to the extreme.

At the end of the day you have the choice to decide what type of leader you would like to be. What type of person would you like to answer to in the mirror? Who do you want to be remembered as? Deciding these priorities is step one in the journey to uncovering the leader inside you.