There's No Holy Grail to Leadership

Posted on August 2, 2010


Team Leadership, photo from

It is often tempting to seek a ‘perfect’ leadership model, and use stick to it religiously. Such a model certainly has its appeal, as it would mean a strategy that would work 100 percent of the time, and this would certainly prevent much unnecessary failure and setbacks.

However, we must realise that such a ‘perfect’ model simply does not exist, for leadership is certainly not a straightforward process that may be carried out by robots. Leadership is a delicate process involving the leader, his team, the work the team does and the environment the team works in. In turn, each of these factors has multitudes of factors that may affect it. It is simply too complex for a template to be applied across.

Applying a template fails to take into account variability in people, environment, and nature of job. Just as a mould cannot fit two different polygons, a template also does not allow for teams of people radically different in nature, such as a conforming team versus a rebellious team. Neither does it allow for a ground environment versus an executive level. Neither would it fit different contexts, such a military and school contexts.

Applying a template prevents flexibility in work. By forcing teams into our ‘ideal’ model, we would be massively reducing the potential of our team. Rather, we would be constricting the team, preventing it from working flexibly to achieve better results in a much more efficient way.

Applying a template would set a team out to fail. By using a pan rather than a pot to boil an egg, we are essentially setting ourselves out to fail as a pan would not be able to fully immerse the egg in water. Similarly, should we strive to use a template to work with different things, we would be using a pan to fry an egg, and we would not produce ideal results.

By realizing that different leadership or management positions has different requirements, involves different culture and different people, we would realise the crucial leadership lesson of being flexible and modifying our approach depending on the working conditions, rather than forcing a model upon our team. This would ensure that we take the first step right as we carry out a transition in leadership or managerial positions.

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