I found John Maeda’s entry at LinkedIn yesterday fascinating, because it described two different models for leadership.  The first model is the classical, authoritarian model most of us are familar with — warts and all —  while the second model contained a number of attributes that I have personally always embraced (leading through doing rather than authority, etc), but have never really thought about in the context of a larger model.

Maeda goes on to refer to these models as the “Authoritative Leader” and the “Creative Leader” and offers a stark contrast between the two, but is careful to hedge that the classical style is still necessary and important in many types of companies.  As a person who has worked in a creative, highly turbulent field that requires quick thinking and improvisation, the “Creative” style seems an obvious choice.   Here is Maeda’s comparison chart of some characteristics of the two (I’ve edited this a bit):

Authoritative Leader

  • Symbol of Authority
  • More Sticks
  • Hierarchical
  • Linear Path
  • Waterfall
  • Sustaining Order
  • Yes or No (Clear)
  • Literal in tone
  • Concerned with Being Right
  • Think like a General
  • Delegation
  • Closed Systems
  • One-Way
  • Follows the Manual
  • Avoids Mistakes
  • Reliability
  • Orchestra
  • Wants to be Right
  • “Your Opinion Matters”

Creative Leader

  • Symbol of Inspiration
  • More Carrots
  • Networked
  • Nonlinear Path
  • Agile / MVP
  • Taking Risks
  • Maybe (comfortable with ambiguity)
  • Metaphorical in tone
  • Concerned with Being Real
  • Think Like a Designer
  • Hands-On
  • Open System
  • Interactive
  • Improvises
  • Fails Quickly (and learns from it)
  • Validity
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Hopes to be Right
  • “Tell Me What You’re Really Thinking.”

Based on this article, I think I’m going to add Maeda’s book, Redesigning Leadership, to my queue.  How about you?  What do you think of this new definition?  Is the old model still valid, or will it fall into obscurity as monolithic, old-guard businesses become less relevant in the future?