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Do all leaders possess the same key traits? The ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu thought so.

In his famous book on leadership, The Art of War, he proposed that a ll effective leaders possess the same five characteristics: intelligence, trustw orthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline. In modern times, however, weve discovered that different leaders lead in differen t ways and that what works for one type of leader wont necessarily work for anoth er. Style theories of leadership were developed in response to the inadequacy of pur ely trait-based leadership theories. This approach analyzes the behaviors of succe ssful leaders and groups them together in common themes to define broad leadersh ip styles. Its an approach that allows for a description of leaders (and leadership behavior ) that is simultaneously more complex and more practical than the old one size fi ts all model. Why? Because it recognizes that leadership behavior is diverse, and that it takes different strokes for different folks to inspire, motivate and lead others toward a goal. It also shows that people who may not achieve a perfect s core on Sun Tzus list of leadership traits can still be effective leaders. Most importantly, this approach more accurately represents most peoples experienc e of leadership behavior, which is this: effective leaders are not all effective in the same ways. For exampleyour project manager, Greta, may have a Type-A personality. She works so hard (and expects so much of her team) that its almost inevitable that she get s things done. But John, whos a more relaxed type, can also achieve the same resu lts with the same team, with less effort. Why? Because he knows how to create sy stems that work. Style theories of leadership were designed to avoid the shortcomings of the trai t-based leadership approach, but they also present their own set of issues. Beca use while their behaviorally based approach to leadership may more accurately re flect what works, they do not address a core issuehow do we develop our particular style of leadership? Another problem: while style theories of leadership pay lip-service to the conce pt of diversity, the names chosen in most style theories reveal a bias that ulti mately suggests that there is one preferable, if not best style of leadership. In th is way, theyre not so different from Sun Tzu, who was convinced that there was on e right way to lead. The earliest work on leadership style carried out by Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lipitt, and Ralph White (way back in 1939) described three leadership styles: authorita rian, democratic, and laissez-faire. (Wouldnt you prefer a democratic leader over a n authoritarian one?) Then theres the managerial grid model developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton ( in 1964) based on where a leaders behavior fall on two continuums: concern for pe ople and concern for goal achievement. This results in five leadership styles: Impoverished Style, Produce or Perish Style, Country Club Style, Middle-of-the-r oad Style, and Team Style. In theory, all of these styles can be effective, but who wants to be labeled as having an impoverished style or even a middle of the roa d style? Despite their shortcomings, however, style theories of leadership can be useful for those seeking to become better leaders, simply by asking us to look at effec tive leadership behavior in terms of what works.

Think of two different people you know who youd consider effective leaders. Do th ey lead in the same way? Why or why not? And what is it that makes each of them effective? Lynda-Ross Vega: A partner at Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd., Lynda-Ross speci alizes in helping coaches, coaching clients and entrepreneurs . She is co-creato r of Perceptual Style Theory, a revolutionary psychological assessment system th at teaches people how to unleash their deepest potentials for success. For free information on how to succeed as an entrepreneur or coach, create a thriving bus iness and build your bottom line doing more of what you love, visit www.YourTale ntAdvantage.com