On 20th September, EAE’s Barcelona Campus was the venue of a new session of the Focused Program on the topic of leadership styles. The session was run by the School’s lecturer on human behaviour, Santiago Ávila, who explained how to identify the most suitable style for each situation.
Ávila acknowledged the fact that leading is very complicated and most people adapt their leadership style depending in the personality of the person we are dealing with “in order to connect with them more easily”. As far as the lecturer on behaviour is concerned, leadership is a mobile competency that requires motivations, character traits, a sense of oneself, knowledge and skills.
Moreover, he gave us an overview of the history of the figure of the leader. At the end of the 1940s, it was generally thought that someone is born a leader and it was not possible to make one. Later in, the conduct of leaders was studied depending on the situation they were in, which went on to form the base of Contingency Theory, which states that the leadership style is fixed and immutable. In contrast, situational leadership (a theory popular in the 1970s and 1980s) suggested that there were different management styles depending on the level of competency of the leader’s subordinates.
The session also concentrated on the various kinds of motivation that exist. The first is external (when it is conditional and only focused in remuneration or receiving something in return) while, according to the EAE lecturer, “internal motivation (from within an individual, when somebody does something because they want to or like it beyond the simple matter of remuneration)”. Lastly, transcendental motivation is determined by satisfaction without expecting anything in return.
The lecturer explained that, between motivation and action, there is knowledge, which has three dimensions: operative (knowing how I have to operate or perform the action), affective and speculative. As such, our motivation is completely related to this knowledge, because external motivation is normally related to operative knowledge, internal with affective knowledge and transcendent with speculative knowledge.
So, how many leadership styles are there? Santiago Ávila talked about a transactional leader who is only interested in results and tends to be authoritarian and aggressive. In contrast, the transformational leader, as well as taking results into account, aligns their collaborator’s interest with the organization and creates a vision and attractive conditions for them. The transcendent leader strives to make people wiser, freer and fair. There is clearly a change in leadership roles under way, with a shift from a transactional to transformational style: “from a strategist to a visionary, from a commander to a storyteller”, he explained. “This is the leader of leaders”, who has courage, wisdom and patience.