Not all situations are the same. Depending on the degree of complexity we can manage them in different ways. Basically, there are four contexts depending on the number of variables to deal with and the number of connections of those variables:
- Controlled context. Few numbers of variables and few connections.
- Complicated context. A high number of variables but limited connections.
- Complex context. A limited number of variables and a high number of connections.
- Uncertain context. A high number of variables and a high number of connections.
Let’s start in reverse order. In the uncertain context, uncertainty is due to too many options, a surplus of possibility. Anything can happen, and there are no clear relationships between causes and effects. Because we cannot foresee what will happen, our decisions have to be based on intuition. It is more related to vision than to anything we could plan. The leader, in this case, needs a competence called intuitive decision making, a kind of non-sequential information-processing mode of decision-making.
In the complex context, some patterns emerge as the consequence of people’s interactions. It is a kind of behaviour that can be recognised but unfortunately cannot be foreseen. Nevertheless, with the appropriate social skills, a good leader has the competencies to facilitate interaction and communication with others and can navigate and manage the situation.
In the complicated context, we shift from unordered environments to ordered environments. It is the world of methods more than people, the world of systems. In this kind of situations, now the relationship between cause and effect is clear, the “only” difficulty is there is more than one option, so the leader has to choose between different scenarios. The risk exists but is acceptable. The leader, in this case, has to be pragmatic and effective. He has to carefully evaluate alternatives and focuses on the highest probability of success. Achievement orientation is the critical competence understood as the concern for competing against a standard of excellence, level of performance or objective.
Finally, in the controlled context, everything is clear. There is a high level of confidence, and the objective is maximum efficiency. The leader looks for an optimum and essential competence, in this case, is called concern for quality, that aims to increase order and reduce uncertainty with accuracy and quality.
And the key question is
Can we move from one leadership style to another elastically? Is that possible? Are we so flexible?
I am afraid that the majority of answers will be negative. All of us have a temperament, a character, a personality that influences the way we understand the world. Our perception, analysis and understanding are biased by our set of beliefs. Of course, we have a moderate capacity to adapt our behaviour to certain situations. It is true we can even develop and increase that capacity. Nevertheless, how flexible we can be will depend on how strong is that character. Here we have four personality types that fit with the four leadership styles:
- Expert. It is the “perfect” choice for controlled domains.
- Competitive. It is the pragmatic and success oriented type.
- Social. The extrovert, sociable and joyful character focused on relations.
- Dominante. The intuitive, excessive and powerful character.
Now, ask yourself what you prefer or where do you feel most comfortable, what situations give you energy, where do you feel motivated. Under ordered and controlled conditions? When competing and being successful? When you talk, you relate to others well and socialise? When undergoing challenges? As a rule of thumb, the clearer the answer is in your mind, the less adaptive you are.
And then what? The answer is obvious; one cannot do everything perfectly. It is a matter of complementarity, teams and shared leadership.
Distributed Leadership is considered a set of spontaneous and interconnected collective initiatives.
Far from the traditional and person-centred school of leadership, inclusive leaders put their energy into what motivates them and compensate their limits by complementing with the team. Part of their activity is then to integrate, motivate and stimulate participation. They align initiatives and strengthen the sense of belonging.
They manage to create a team consciousness based on trust and are generous in decreasing their ego and increasing the “us”. It guarantees a better quality of management, better results and greater effectiveness in adapting to each situation.
- Ellis, Albert. Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors: New Directions for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Nachdr. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001.
- Jung, C. G., Adler, G., & Hull, R. F. C. (2014). Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Snowden, D. J., & Boone, M. E. (November 2007). A Leaders’s Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Business Review.
- Spencer, L. M., & Spencer, S. M. (1993). Competence at Work: Models for Superior Performance. USA: John Wiley & Sons.
- Zamora Enciso, R. (2010). Cooplexity. A model of collaboration in complexity for management in times of uncertainty and change. Lulu.com.