Last year I delivered a Toastmasters speech my leadership style. I chose to look back at how different leadership styles had shown up through the years across various organisations and what I learnt. It was an interesting exercise for me to understand why different styles weren’t always a good fit. I experimented with leadership styles from my early childhood right up into adulthood.
I mean, picture it – a princess who would be queen, Winterborn, First of Her Name, solemnly surveying the grounds, scanning for invaders as the castle is under constant threat during this war. Suddenly, she hears footsteps followed by a soft creak. She races to the source of the sound – the entry to the hallowed throne room. Unable to patrol the entire boundary on her own, a rival princess had snuck past, gained access and barricaded the door. Sensing her hold on the castle dwindling, she decides to call for reinforcements. She turns and sprints down the main passage, past the grand hall, heading for the chamber of the elders. As she draws near, she starts to yell for help, with the one word she knows will herald the end of this battle…
That’s right, I was that princess, and that battle? It was perhaps my last attempt at bureaucratic leadership. My attempts to rule over my sister had failed royally. I had established strict rules of engagement in our battle over the house. I had decided the division of territory and demanded that she comply or FACE MY WRATH.
Suffice it to say that my sister, just a year younger and almost the same size as me, was not a mere underling, and she resented my attempts to micromanage her use of the bathroom.
I may have been only about 7 but my lesson was learnt – bureaucratic leadership will not always work.
That was how I started my speech, and it was entertaining. But my point was clear. Certain leadership styles won’t always work.
Over time, my understanding of leadership evolved. Bureaucratic leadership had not worked for me as a child, and most of the leaders I had seen – well, I don’t know about anybody else but attending an all girls Christian high school is nothing if not bureaucratic. We had rules about permitted hair styles, which once led to a major school wide protest involving pigtails, high socks and the biggest game of dandy shandy you have ever seen. But that’s a story for another day.
At UWI, that treasured learning experience, the beloved group project, forced me to continue to explore leadership. I was all about collaboration and communication, making sure everyone had an opportunity to participate. We would decide things together, making sure we got input from all group members. If someone else wanted to step up and take the lead, I was not going to be the one to throw a tantrum. I was the perfect democratic leader.
If you’ve ever done any group work, you can guess how this went. Something like a runaway train careening off the tracks crashing right through that fountain of knowledge while the passengers admired the rainbows from the water spraying in the air. Between looming deadlines and team members who had been to only a fraction of the classes and never even cracked open the textbooks so they had nothing to contribute… After many late nights finishing group projects, alone, I was forced to accept that democratic leadership also will not always work.
Later in life, out in the working world, I realised that the leaders I learnt the most from were the ones that focused on helping me grow, to move towards realising my full potential. They provided me with challenges to motivate me and help prepare me for the future. I flourished in this positive culture as did other team members.
Now I find myself emulating this leadership style, working closely with small teams and one-on-one mentoring. It was no surprise to me when I took the Toastmasters Leadership Style Quiz and Coaching Leadership came out on top.
Interesting to me, is that I now have people telling me that I am the. kind of leader they want to emulate. I had one former team member tell me that she uses “WWBD” (What Would Bianca Do) to help guide her as she leads her own teams.
So from that little wanna-be queen has come a true leader!