Modern Day

By the time we get to the 21st Century there is a plethora of thought around leadership. And a tendency to see more models emerge which usually add an adjective to the term Leadership – such as Authentic Leadership, Creative Leadership, Resilient Leadership, etc. All add something to our understanding of how to develop individuals and groups but they can also distract from what is Leadership.

In 2008 a review of definitions of Leadership found several million!! Descriptions. Most were similar and the most widely accepted centred on what we can see is the essence of leadership. It can be stated in the following:

“Leadership is …… influencing, inspiring and directing the performance of people towards the achievement of key goals – and creating the sense of success in the short and the long term.”

The essence of Leadership connects two ideas:

  • Performance –this embraces output and outcomes as well as self actualisation
  • Engagement with the Follower –  If you want to know whether you are a leader, see if there is someone who is prepared to follow your lead.  True leadership implies that followers accept – in some way – to follow a leader. This is important because developing leadership often also means developing the followers.

In 2008 AQR International and Professor Peter Clough (MMU), with the support of the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) carried out a major study to examine all of the prevailing thinking.

What emerged is an understanding that, when stripped back to their basic elements, almost all models were in fact rooted in one or more of six core scales. In turn this appears to provide a clear and comprehensive description of Leadership Style. This shown below:

SCALEScale DescriptionPoles
GOAL ORIENTATIONHow important achieving goals is to the leaderThe Means v. The End
MOTIVATIONWhat the leader believes is the prime path to motivationThe Task v. The Person
ENGAGEMENTHow leaders will engage with othersFlexible v. Dogmatic
CONTROLThe extent to which leaders need to be in controlDe-Centralised v. Centralised
RECOGNITIONThe leaders preferred approach to recognitionReward v. Punishment
STRUCTUREHow important structure is to the leaderStructured v. Organic

This work showed however that there was no particular pattern or profile which was consistently the most effective – again reflecting the idea that leadership style, at least, is situational. It is highly consistent with the ideas offered by Fiedler 60 years earlier!! It seems that he was a genuine pioneer in this field.

The study also captured follower perceptions about the effectiveness of their leaders. This enabled further analysis which showed that there were three core competencies which appear to be crucial for leadership effectiveness (there also be a fourth but needs further study). These are shown below:

Determination to DeliverThis describes a single minded determination to achieve. Most satisfaction – the individuals and the followers – is derived from this.
Engagement with Individuals This describes enhancing the capability, confidence and commitment of individuals to enable them to perform and to fulfil themselves.
Engagement with TeamsThe emphasis is on cross functional team working – a leader knows and supports how people work together across the organisation

An important by-product of this work has been the ILM72 which is a 72 item reliable psychometric which assesse adopted leadership style and leadership “effectiveness” in terms of the above. It maps to virtually every leadership model described before.

The term adopted is significant. It appears that many individuals adopt a style which is not necessarily (although can be) their preferred style. It appears that the culture of the organisation shapes leadership behaviour which of course has implications for the effectiveness of leadership development.

So what next?

It appears that there is a good understanding of what leadership means in terms of behaviour and style. And, if anything, Leadership is rising even higher on the agenda for most organisations recognising that the key to agility and performance lies in properly engaged employees at all levels.

One area which is growing in importance is the question of Trust and how it relates to Leadership. New generations of staff are more questioning and less likely to blindly follow leaders. They seem to seek engagement – but need to know to what extent they can trust organisations.

Perhaps the greatest challenge remains how to develop leadership effectively. Behaviour based programmes can work but these require genuinely skilled trainers and coaches and real commitment to their implementation.

Too many programmes still educate participants about Leadership but instead of changing behaviour, too often see people “reverting to type”.

An explanation lies in this comparatively narrow focus on behaviour. There is a growing awareness that real change happens where we learn to act (behaviour) differently and where we learn to think (mindset) differently. Actions follow thought, not the other way around.

Some are now approaching this from a Values perspective, others (AQR included) are relating this to Mindset.

Curiously, AQR’s involvement with the Institute of Leadership and Management was stimulated by their interest in AQR’s work on Mental Toughness. Also a development between Professor Clough and AQR, this describes Mindset as a personality trait. Importantly it provides framework for awareness and self awareness about an individual’s mindset in terms of 4 components called the 4Cs.

This is leading to a more embracing approach to understanding and developing highly effective leadership


By Doug Strycharczyk, CEO- AQR International doug-clear

For more information on Mental Toughness and the MTQ48 please see

For more information on leadership and our integrated leadership measure (ILM72)  please visit our website at Or for the opportunity to complete the ILM72 free of charge (one per organisation) contact us at 

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