The only leadership models you need

In conversations with business contacts over the years about leadership courses, I have found myself reflecting that there are really only two kinds of leadership or management model – and the two kinds have very different purposes and effects.

The first kind of leadership/management model is designed to appear as complicated and intellectual as possible (it may not actually be very complex, but it’s developed to the point where it appears so). Its purpose is to make the originator look good, and the user as awestruck as possible, ideally to the point where they daren’t use the model except with the (paid) help of the originator or one of his licensees. This type of model tends to be protected by copyright, and its complexity justifies things like university tenure, high fees, book deals, additional merchandise etc. The effect of the model is to paralyse the potential user, weighing them down with so much information that they daren’t even try to act on what they have learned.

For obvious reasons, it would not be tactful or wise to name the culprits here – but you know who you are!

The second kind of leadership/management model is designed only to shed useful light on a hitherto apparently complex area of life or work. It has been developed for the convenience of the user, not as an ego-trip for the originator. This kind of model can be scribbled in pencil on the back of an envelope and when introduced at just the right time, when it’s needed, it has an immediate ‘aha’ effect. The user’s immediate reaction is, “Oohhhhh! I never saw it that way before – that makes so much sense!”

When you’ve been presented with a model like this, you don’t need to learn or remember it for it to make a difference to the way you subsequently behave. Different, more effective action is drawn from you, simply because you now have a new perspective. The world actually looks a different way to you. There’s nothing to learn, remember or ‘take on board’. In fact, when you ‘get’ one of these models, it makes life easier and your mind less cluttered.

I’ve spent my entire working life collecting such models – and they are now my stock in trade. I love their simplicity and elegance. Keep an eye on this blog for the kind of simple models and structures we are talking about…