Do We Need a Different Type of Leader?

There is an interesting dialogue happening in one of the LinkedIn groups I am a member of regarding the need for a new kind of leader. The discussion references research from the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and the University of North Carolina (UNC), suggesting changing times mean we need a different type of leader.

While the research focuses more on the need to accelerate leadership development to compensate for an aging demographic of leaders, the LinkedIn discussion delves into what new type of leader will be needed. Is needing a different kind of leader really "new," though?

I’m not sure there is a “new” kind of leader. Organizations have always needed different types of leaders at different stages of their development. For example, the kind of leadership that is needed to guide a company through a stage of upheaval, like a merger, is a different kind of leader than would be needed for a company in a steady growth phase. 

There is a great article in the December 2013 issue of Forbes that speaks to the different stages an organization goes through as it evolves, matures and reinvents itself. For each stage there are different needs a company has and this includes the type of leader that is best suited to bring the organization through it. Every leader has a style, so it’s important for an organization to know what stage they are in in order to know what type of leadership is required. 

Size, geography, industry and culture can also play a huge role in what type of leadership will best help an organization. I think it’s important to consider all of these factors, but I don’t think it’s necessarily something new. 

In terms of what types of leaders are most commonly sought after, we have some interesting statistics from our clients at The McQuaig Institute. If we look at the behavioral benchmarks our clients created when recruiting for a C-Suite role since 2006, 75 percent of them were looking for what we call a Generalist Profile. This is someone who is assertive, driving, persuasive and decisive. 

Within that group, 52 percent set their sights on a Pioneer Profile; this kind of leader is ambitious, direct, persistent and a big picture thinker. 

If we look back, those numbers haven’t changed much since 2006, which means that the kind of leaders our clients were looking for transcended what was going on in the economy. 

I won’t speculate on what that says about an individual organization, but it’s interesting to note because it alludes to the fact that not many companies are changing their leadership requirements based on the stage their organization is in.

What do you think? Are we in need of a new type of leader?