The monosodium glutamate job is still around. The kind of job that satiates when you are in it …. but half an hour after leaving for the day, you feel empty and wonder, “Why I am still doing that job?” Then the next day you come back for more of the same. Most of these jobs are in baby boomer institutions where hierarchal leaders maintain the status quo through goal-centric, competitive, and self-disciplined behavior.
So, how can women pivot into 21st century leadership styles as alternatives to the well-worn hierarchical one. Newer styles of leadership are emerging – predominantly driven by women and younger and diverse populations pivoting out of old paradigms. They bring waves of change. Some styles are yet to acquire common names, so I am going to use scientific analogy to name them: conducting, convecting and radiant styles of leadership.
Lateral leadership is one style that has gained acceptance over the last 20 years. Lateral, meaning “from the side,” because the leader is part of a team or group, and effects change from within. I prefer to call it conducting leadership because it is the kind of leadership that requires close contact – like a conductor in electrical, not orchestral, terms. Unfortunately, leading from the INside can be MISinterpreted as not wanting to be involved or to lead, which is not the case. Like hierarchical leaders, conducting leaders are still committed to their organizations, but not to large impersonal hierarchies. They want to function differently. They want to use leadership skills that they are comfortable with such as negotiation and facilitation. Intrapersonally, they want to be approachable and reliable. It is the type of leadership exhibited in community-based health centres.
Another type of leadership is convecting. Convection is a current that moves things around, creating groundswells of change. Successful convecting leaders are often visionary and innovative. Like lateral and conducting leaders, they are still committed to working with and around organisations, but the organisations are usually smaller, more agile and differently structured. Convecting leaders often work with individuals stuck in larger organisations to help them move the currents. For example, as mentors and coaches, they can initiate waves of skill enhancement and confidence. If done properly, this kind of leadership enables others to increase their leadership skills at their own pace in their own direction. The World Health Organization is an example of a convecting leadership organization.
The newest group of leaders to emerge are a group I call radiating leaders. Radiating, because they are like bolts of lightning briefly illuminating the sky. It is a broader, but more indirect, kind of leadership: sending out light, shining or glowing brightly, either comfortingly or confrontingly. They function on several levels: through inquiry (asking leading questions), innovation (introducing new ideas), affirmation (by celebrating achievements) and finally synthesis (by making the connections for others, helping not to repeat mistakes). It is often a solo activity of high energy and short flame, but with great impact, nonetheless. Bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, Instagrammers and Tiktokkers are all examples of where radiant leaders operate.
These concepts also apply to those of us seeking meaning beyond paid work. If you don’t or no longer are called to your current activities, and if they don’t provide the opportunity to share the skills you have acquired, it could be time to pivot into something different that offers a new range of leadership activities.
PS For all the wonderful men who read my blogs please assume that the female tense is gender neutral.