Making Sense of Leadership Models

People can be very possessive when it comes to leadership theories and models, it’s not unusual for someone to maintain an unwavering allegiance to one particular model throughout their whole career. Perhaps a mentor has inspired them with talk on John Adair’s action-centered leadership approach, or a lecturer got them going with James MacGregor Burns’ transformational school of thought. After all, it’s not as if there is a shortage of models to choose from!

While this type of loyalty is commendable in theory, it’s not necessarily realistic to assume that one set of thinking can be appropriate for every situation that leaders may find themselves in.

Few other areas of management theory can top leadership models when it comes to their ability to stimulate debate, either. Whether you are talking about Mary Parker Follet’s ideas on followership or Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you’ll find both devotees and dissidents in equal measure.

But while much has been written and said about these and other models (it is estimated there are more than 50 in popular use), any discussion has tended to focus on each one in isolation, with little debate on how they might relate to each other or overlap.

The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) felt that with a plethora of models out there, all seemingly saying different things, it was time to bring some coherency to our understanding of leadership. By doing this, we might get closer to leadership’s Holy Grail – the development of a definitive set of measures that could help managers learn more about their own leadership style.

With the support of ILM, this challenge was taken up by AQR who formed a small but dedicated team that managed to create an overarching leadership model, which maps to all of the current models used by HR departments, training professionals and academics. Developed alongside it is the Integrated Leadership Measure, or ILM72, a robust psychometric test which allows leaders to assess their leadership style and helps them to identify the key skills and competencies needed for more effective leadership.

‘All of the great models work in their own way,’ explains Doug Strycharczyk, Managing Director of the global test publisher and business consultancy AQR.

‘We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, we wanted to come up with something that would make sense of all of the models and thinking out there and allow us to measure some aspect of leadership for the first time.’

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