Three Positive Leadership Styles for the 21st Century

Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership

Leadership expert John Maxwell often says: "Everything rises and falls on leadership." This idea was highlighted in the The McKinsey Quarterly which observed

"New research now confirms the notion that management matters to all companies, including the top performers. While this finding is hardly a surprise, what is startling is just how much the decisions of managers matter. Managers are more important than the industry sector in which a company competes, the regulatory environment that constrains it, or the country where it operates. In other words, managers are more important to how a company is managed than business lines, government policy, or geography."

Of course, tough economic times like those in 2008 and 2009 made the necessity of quality leadership even that much greater. This article examines three types of positive leadership that when applied can motivate employees and other staff members to achieve beyond ordinary expectations.

Authentic Leadership

Authentic leadership is much like servant leadership. According to Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic, "Authentic leaders genuinely desire to serve others through their leadership.  They are more interested in empowering the people they lead to make a difference than they are in power, money, or prestige for themselves.  They are as guided by qualities of the heart, by passion and compassion, as they are by qualities of the mind."

This type of leadership is very similar to Level 5 Leadership which was highlighted by researcher Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. Through his research, Collins described Level 5 Leaders as humble and self-effacing but no less driven for success. They are managers who are more concerned with the name on the building than they are with the name on the door or desk.

One expert on authentic leadership described practitioners as those who are willing to

Stand alone
Live fearlessly
Act heroically
Want to be free and true more than anything else
Take unconditional responsibility for oneself
Face everything and avoid nothing
At all times see things impersonally
Live for a higher purpose

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a theory first recognized in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf. It is a management style by which heads of business enterprises or organizations see themselves not as men on top of the heap, but rather as those who have a responsibility to serve the organization and all its stakeholders. The notion of servant leadership is “that leaders should be attentive to the concerns of their followers and empathize with them; they should take care of them and nurture them.” Servant leadership is an upside down model of handling organizations and was best displayed in the life of Jesus who chose the way of disgrace over the way of honor which resulted in him becoming the most transforming personality the world has ever known. This type of management approach is often misunderstood for being weak, but in reality it can be quite transformational because it serves as a motivating example that most staff members are willing to follow.

Spiritual Leadership

Another positive leadership style is spiritual leadership. Many businessmen understand that there is more to life than business and that this life is temporal at best. As such, they feel they have a responsibility to encourage those under their authority to grow as a whole person including mind, body, and soul. Such corporate heads believe that their ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God and they have a responsibility to provide an atmosphere for their employees to do the same.

Henry Blackaby and his son Richard describe Spiritual Leadership "as moving people on to God's agenda." and list the following as the distinctive elements of this type of management approach.

They wrote that spiritual leaders...

1. See their chief task is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be.

2. Depend on the Holy Spirit.

3. Are accountable to God.

4. Can influence all people, not just God's people.

5. Work from God's agenda.

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Comments 4 comments

Destined To Win profile image

Destined To Win 7 years ago

Thanks for this most excellent hub. I am always interested in reading about leadership and most especially about the various styles to effective leadership. You gave us some marvelous "food for thought." I think "servant leadership" is a particularly effective model as it reflects the very heart of Christ. Thanks again for writing on this topic.


Marissa 5 years ago

I would like to see your reference list please. I am working on my Masters degree and can use some of your literature, however not without references. Thank you


ecoggins profile image

ecoggins 5 years ago from Corona, California Author

Servant Leadership:

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate

power and greatness. New York: Paulist Press.

Spiritual Leadership:

Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, (Nashville, TN : Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001).

Authentic Leadership:

Bill George (2003) Authentic Leadership


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Thanks, ECoggins. You've introduced three excellent models of peaceful and empowering leaders. I've written quite a bit about leadership, and am familiar with some of this. But you are expanding my horizons. I'll link to your hub from my hub, The Four Types of Leaders.

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