First we had leaders make the difference, success is based on strong leadership. Then it was no more heroes because the charismatic individual’s insistence on uncritical loyalty can lead you astray. This was followed by the need for leaders at every level in the organisation and for all managers to have leadership skills. Unfortunately all managers didn’t want to be leaders and all managers couldn’t live up to the expectation, some though being an effective manager was enough.
This was followed by “wining without leaders”, essentially this is stressing the power of team work. More recently we have experienced the Laissez- faire style of leadership where the leader takes a hands off or light touch approach putting their faith in the expertise and specialist knowledge of their advisors/senior managers. Which can be mistaken for no leadership at all.
Different times call for different types of leadership, the “strong leadership” is most effective for short term criss where radical action is needed quickly, a new management structure is imposed, budget cuts are forced through. Where as if an organisation needs to change its culture then a leader who prompts debate, challenge and openness will be more effective in changing the way people think. Team work is required whatever the type of leadership but winning without a leader implies that at different times different people can take responsibility and provide inspiration. This is particularly attractive in partnership working as it recognises that the biggest organisation is not always the best or most appropriate to lead.
Laissez- faire , literally,”leave it alone “ is not an abdication of leadership but a recognition that in some circumstances the best thing the leader can do is appoint the right people and give them the authority and responsibility of getting on with it. This approach has been effective in creative industries but it could also work where organisations have significantly reduced their managers and so dramatically increased the spans of responsibility of senior managers obliging them to rely ( be over reliant ) on the expertise and experience of those they manage.
Post pandemic and post Brexit the role of leaders will change as organisations adapt to the new new, which ever type of leadership best suits. But over all the big change is to be less obsessed with leadership and more focused on the other factors in success. Because as Brain Clough said managers take to much credit when things go well and too much blame when they don’t.