Today, I was at an event called Vancouver ChangeCamp, which is a “participatory event to imagine and build new ways to collaborate for social change in the digital age.” Similar to the BarCampBank events I’ve attended and organized over the last several years, but focused on social change in Vancouver.
One session today was on leadership, and a man in the session said that in any organization there are three kinds of leaders: hierarchical, raw talent and popular. I’ve never thought of it that way, but it struck me as a very simple, effective and clear way to describe leadership opportunities.
I reflected on the times in my life when I’ve been a leader, and which of those kinds of leaders I was.
When I first moved to the States when I was 22 years old, I was the assistant manager of a chain retail store called Natural Wonders. I was in a position of hierarchical leadership, but honestly didn’t care about the company. I was in change because I was installed in that position, but hadn’t earned the mantle of leadership, and didn’t particularly want it. I was purely a hierarchical leader, a leader in name only.
When I made films, I was perhaps a popular leader. People were attracted to be a part of my productions and often gave me their time, equipment or services for free or a greatly reduced price. I was always humbled by this, but people believed in me and my projects and wanted to be involved.
I thought of my early days in social media, when this blog became a centre-point for my interest in this emerging field, and I gained a leadership position due to my thought leadership, and ability to communicate my thoughts. That was perhaps a demonstration of a raw talent leader. I was invited to speak at numerous conferences and events and, over time, was seen as a leader both within my organization and beyond.
For the past five years, I have been a leader within my organization, managing managers and their staff. I am glad this has happened after achieving the other kinds of leadership positions, because I have learned from each type (without knowing the vocabulary I heard today) of leadership opportunity I had.
I take leadership very seriously. I think of the great bosses I’ve had and what I learned from them, and how they coached me in ways that went far beyond that job or company. In fact, I consider leadership to be sacred, helping people achieve things, understand their strengths and limitations so they can harness them or rise above them. It’s something I’m honoured to do, and truly love doing. It’s a trust I wish more hierarchical leaders took seriously.
I like the idea of these three types of leadership, and will think about how to harness all three together in a meaningful way.
What other kinds of leadership do you see?