Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Leadership Style - Yes, It matters!

Volume: Mid-September 2010

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


Results are important. A lot of our focus here at Leadership Simplified is on delivering positive results. If you desire not only short-term results, but long-term results, you should also pay attention to the methods you as a leader use to drive results. This desire, to deliver consistent positive outcomes, brings us to the topic of leadership style. In order to take a quick look at the impact of leadership style, we examine the underpinnings of a mayoral race in Washington D.C. The current mayor Adrian Fenty should, by many results-oriented measures, be a shoe-in in the next election. The polls, where he is trailing badly, tell a different story. The reason he is far behind in the polls? The answer is found from a quote in a recent report by NPR: “With a strong national reputation and a record that other mayors would be proud of, many expected Fenty to coast to re-election. But instead he’s in a battle, mostly because of what some call an arrogant, aloof and aggressive style of leadership.” In other words, Mr. Fenty’s style of delivering results is imperiling his ability to continue to deliver positive outcomes.

The “style” approach to leadership emphasizes the behavior of the leader (Northouse, P.G. 2010, Leadership Theory and Practice). In his book, Northouse references researchers who state that the style approach to leadership is composed of two kinds of behaviors: task behavior (getting things done) and relationship behaviors (helping others feel comfortable with the situation). 

In Mr. Fenty’s case his impressive results are being overshadowed by his in your face leadership behavior. While he has excelled at attracting support talent, making pragmatic changes, and improving measurable outcomes, he has done it in a manner that did not build relationships and trust. While it may be too late for Mr. Fenty to adjust his style in order to maintain his leadership position, what should others do who are in a similar, non-political circumstance? Let’s take a look at four (4) path-goal items (Northhouse 2010) to consider:

  1. Define Goals – while Mr. Fenty has probably defined goals well, perhaps he could embrace a more visionary, inclusionary manner when doing so. The more it sounds like a team vision and goal, the more the team will be on board.
  2. Clarify Path – if the mantra for the path is “do it now,” things may get done, but for how long? The more a leader empathetically verbalizes a path and how that path will benefit its travelers, the more people will eagerly stay on the path.
  3. Remove Obstacles – a leader who orders others to remove rocks in the road, manages obstacles. A leader who is out in front, perspiring, helping to move those same boulders is leading the way. Morale: get your hands dirty when there are thorny issues. Your people will notice.
  4. Provide Support – this is where the concept of participative leadership takes shape.  According to Northouse, participative leadership “consists of inviting subordinates to share in the decision-making…obtaining their ideas and opinions, and integrating their suggestions into how the organization will proceed.”

More than likely, Mr. Fenty will be job hunting soon. Do not suffer the same fate. Look in the mirror (or engage in a 360 degree peer review process) and tweak your leadership style. Be strategic and match your style to fit your team’s personality and the culture of your organization. The result? Ahh, sweet longevity! 


Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and collaboration consultant, executive coach, and strategic planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available at www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug help your team work together better, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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