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Versatile Leadership

Key Idea

Versatile leadership refers to the ability of an individual in power to adjust their behavior and communication style to best fit the communication style of others and the leadership style that is needed based on the situation at hand.

Article to Read

Developing Versatile Leadership
by Robert E. Kaplan and Robert B. Kaser, MIT Sloan Management Review. Summer 2003

Quick Take from the Book

The key concepts of versatile leadership include:

  • Managerial leadership styles fall under one of four main categories: Forceful, enabling, strategic and operational.
  • Most leaders tend to overdo the style that they are most comfortable with and deem the most effective. This creates a “lopsided” leader.
  • The “lopsided leader” has limited skills, one-sided values, narrow and skewed mental models, and a fear of not being up to the task.
  • Leaders must learn to under-use their “go to” leadership style.
  •  Versatility does not mean total moderation at all times but rather knowing how to switch leadership styles and when to amplify the use of the leadership style that is needed for a particular situation.

Quote of Note

“Versatility pays off. Our research found a close association between versatility …and overall effectiveness…We found substantial correlations between ratings of effectiveness and versatility on both the forceful-enabling and strategic-operational dualities. These strong statistical relationships reflect the fact that versatile managers are consistently regarded as the most effective leaders in their organizations” -Developing Versatile Leadership P. 96

 Related Styles: Adaptive Leadership, Agile Leadership, Crisis Leadership

Return to List of Leadership Styles