According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills, leaders need to understand their followers more than their followers need to understand them. Further, he opined that trying to understand followers was the most time-consuming aspect of becoming a leader.
Universal Leadership Types
Wills believed that effective leaders fit their situations well. In studying the biographies and records of great historical leaders, he concluded that there is no such thing as a universal leadership type.
Given Wills’ research, it’s not surprising to learn that the business world is filled with entrepreneurial executives who displayed extraordinary skills, building start-ups, but then lacked the skills and focus necessary to take these businesses into the corporate phase of the growth trajectory.
Steve Jobs & Apple
The world watched as Steve Jobs founded Apple, only to be later fired by his board once it deemed he had surpassed his skill set in the entrepreneurial phase of building the company. Ten years later Apple hired Jobs back as it struggled to be profitable in the highly competitive world of home computers. Once the Apple board understood the importance of having a leader like Jobs who understood its followers, Apple’s growth knew no bounds.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a leader is key to having a successful career. Doing so will help you get yourself into appropriate leadership situations so that your abilities will not be squandered. Remember, that the importance of understanding the company’s followers also cannot be underestimated.
Elaine Allan, BA, MBA
Technology & Business Blogger