Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Addressing the Irony: Three Styles of Leadership

Addressing the Irony: Three Styles of Leadership

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The knowledge needed to be effective as a tactician or strategist can be taught and there are specific planning tools and procedures that are available through management training programs. Courage cannot be taught, just as wisdom is not readily acquired. However, there are ways in which this second type of leader can prepare ahead of time for battle. It is not enough, in other words, to be a courageous warrior. One must also be a cunning warrior.

The key to wholehearted acceptance of and sustained support for a courageous leader resides in the identification of an enemy that is both powerful and persistent. What triggers the sense of “enemy”? At one level the answer to this question is obvious: someone or some group is an enemy if it is threatening—if its intentions are not honorable, if it is capable of posing a threat, and if this threat is detectable to the enemy’s opponent. At a neuropsychological level, we can say that an enemy is threatening if it triggers a strong reaction from our Amygdala (a small neuro-structure located in our mid-brain that is often identified as the seat of our emotions). Many years ago,

Charles Osgood (1957) proposed that humans tend to categorize almost everything into three binary categories: (1) good or bad, (2) active or passive, and (3) strong or weak. Using a factor-analysis-based tool called the Semantic Differential, Osgood made a persuasive case for the impact of these three categories on the ways in which we structure our world. Given the more recent research on the role played by the Amygdala, we might propose that it is this mid-brain neurological structure that does the categorizing of everything into these three categories.

Something is viewed as threatening if it is bad (not interested in our welfare), if it is active and if it is strong. Perhaps these are also the criteria we use (via the Amygdala) in identifying an enemy. The enemy is someone or something that is bad (evil, ill-intentioned, against us) and is also strong and active. While another organization can be in opposition to us, it will probably not be very threatening if it is weak or if it is inactive. A weak enemy can readily be defeated. A passive enemy remains non-threatening as long as it is itself not provoked.

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