Some core traits of a leader bleed across all archetypes. They’re universal and timeless. Other qualities and styles better fit certain leaders for certain seasons of their assignment.
There are thousands of ways to classify leaders, their qualities, and the various organizational needs. In my coaching portfolio I usually keep a combination of large mature- company CEO’s, global impact NFP’s, all size and stage family businesses, and a few young start-up entrepreneurs. Because of that broad-blended canvas, I have noticed three distinct kinds of leaders needed to guide three different organizations. These are not the only three but they sure cover a lot of the organizational landscape.
The three common leaders are: launch-the-business leader, run-the-business leader, and change-the-business leader.
Who needs a Launch–the–Business Leader?
Any organization, regardless of its mission, customer, and offering, that is in start-up phase. This could be a young church plant or a couple launching a new ice cream food truck.
It could be a passionate millennial trying to make a difference in global human trafficking or an aging baby boomer working on her second career. It is less about the age of the organization and more about the stage of the organization.
Who needs a Run–the–Business Leader?
A high growth company that is in desperate need of processes and systems to carry the weight and pace of scale. A mature company that is flat in growth but generally healthy in all other indicators and still has a bright future. A seasoned NFP that needs someone to run it while the visionary or founder can explore a new horizon. A family business looking to change the leadership but not necessarily change the customer base, the offering, or the culture.
Who needs a Change–the–Business Leader?
Any organization that is trying to reinvent itself for the next generation. A twenty-five year old NFP that has missed the technology revolution. A century-old company that has slowly become irrelevant to everyone but its employees. A company that has momentum and tailwinds and wants to scale.
Here is a quick identification chart to distinguish the differences.
|Launch the Business||Run the Business||Change the Business|
|Nickname||Part Bulldog, Part Bulldozer (relentless and a bit pushy)||Steady Hand (calm and collected while riding the corporate roller coaster)||Teflon (doesn’t over-personalize the plan, the solution, or the criticism)|
|Ignition switch||Is pulled by a dream, vision, or cause||Works well when handed the targets||Sees the big picture, intuitively spots the gaps, and figures out tipping points|
|Need for others||Self-starter||Team-driven||Self-driven|
|Response to others||Can show self-confidence and enthusiasm amid the threat of failure or resistance||Can work with all kinds of people, even high performers||Can handle resistance, confrontation, and turmoil|
|Internal motivation role||Promoter, recruiter, or crusader||Not personality based leadership driven||Convincer and persuader|
|Relationship with subordinates||Collaborates minimally, preferring to work hard alone||Enjoys delegating||Works best with a team of highly motivated top performers|
|Relationship with direction||Flourishes under independence||Freed by protocol||Annoyed by micromanaging|
|Activities||May confuse thinking with action||Itches for efficiency and effectiveness||Behaves more strategically than tactically|
Matching the right leader with the current season of the organization is crucial. If you are a donor or investor, check this match before you double down. If you are the owner or a board member, exercise the courage and vision to make the match. If you are the leader, do everything you can to shore up additional skill sets through coaching or add a team member with the muscle to help you lead in the right rhythm.
Steve is an organizational strategist, social innovator, pragmatic theologian, executive coach, and mentor. Over the past 25 years Steve has helped hundreds of organizations launch and scale, while authoring over 15 books aimed at showing business people how to flourish in their life and work.