The Leadership Paradox – To Become a Leopard or Chameleon
Leadership is an important facet whether you are running a kitchen, an organization, or a country.
It is difficult to gauge what leadership style should be implemented when, where, and how. The best leaders are able to adjust their style based on the situation they find themselves in.
There are numerous types of leadership almost a leadership style for every situation!
Therefore, it is important to know all the different styles of leadership so you can identify which style is appropriate for each situation.
I have selected a book titled ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ written by Jules Verne in order to understand some of the leadership styles in different situations. The story starts in London in the year 1872.
It is about a rich British gentleman named Phileas Fogg who goes around the world in 80 days with his butler, Jean Passepartout as they embark on journey which is full of adventures and surprises. The story follows two travelers that grow to a trio and then a foursome as they fight their way through countless obstacles to reach home in time.
Scene 1 – Phileas Fogg is a perfectionist. One of the first things we learn about him is that he dismissed his butler for bringing him water that was two degrees too cold. So, when Fogg says someone can make it around the world in 80 days, we should probably listen.
Fogg likes to go to the reform club. One day, he is playing cards with his friends. Then, they start to discuss a bank robbery and if someone can travel around the world in 80 days. Fogg’s friends challenge him to prove his statement. So, Fogg places a bet of £20,000 (his entire fortune) for the wager.
He comes back and informs his newly hired butler about his travel plan with instructions to pack 2 shirts, 2 pairs of trousers and 3 stockings in a duffle bag within 20 minutes.
Here Phileas displays Autocratic leadership style – is a strong one-dimensional leadership style that gives full power or authority to the leader/boss/manager.
In this style, the leader makes all the decisions without any consultation with subordinates or team members. He makes all the crucial calls which are then communicated to team members and they are expected to work on the instructions immediately.
Scene 2 – Mr. Fogg knows to the detailed level as what he means. He has a planned route along with the mode of transportation as well as how much time each leg of journey will take him.
Fogg’s travel route was like this: London > Cairo > Mumbai -> Calcutta > Hong Kong > Tokyo > San Francisco– >New York > London.
In India, when Fogg was travelling to Calcutta, the train stopped halfway as the railway tracks were not completed.
Mr. Fogg wasn’t angry or worried about the delay because he had prepared for it. he had calculated into his plan such obstacles. Whereas for most people, the end of the rail line would be the end of the bet and the journey, for Fogg it was a stimulus to find some other means to continue. He was very resourceful and managed to find everything under difficult circumstances. He purchased an elephant for 2,000 pounds, to travel through the forest.
This is a Strategic leadership style – it is a practice in which leaders, develop a vision, that enables them to adapt to or remain competitive in a changing environment. These individuals care about the meticulous details to manage their vision to success. They will do what they can to fulfil their goals in the event of an unforeseen situation. They are highly intelligent, and they promote a culture of learning and discovery.
Scene 3 – While Fogg and Passepartout were in the India jungle, they saw a woman, Aouda, who was going to be burned alive on her husband’s funeral pyre as per a tradition called “Sati”. Fogg decided they need to save her. Passepartout devises an intricate plan to save Aouda, where he takes the place of Aouda’s deceased husband on the funeral pyre. During the ceremony he rises from the pyre, scaring off the priests, and carries Aouda away.
The project of rescuing the girl was a bold one, full of difficulty. Mr. Fogg had risked liberty and the success of his tour. But he did not hesitate. If not for Fogg’s actions, Aouda would have been killed.
Phileas displays an Altruistic leadership style – acts of courage, such as taking personal risks for the greater good; putting others above self to effectively lead a team and/or an organization. When altruism is combined with leadership, that means the leader’s focus is reaching the common objectives while leading in a selfless way, where the happiness of the employees is paramount.
From these 3 scenarios, it is very clear that there isn’t one perfect leadership style. By recognizing when to use each style appropriately, you maximize your chances for success and long-term achievement.
Unlike the Leopard that never changes its spots, the best leaders are Chameleons – they observe their surroundings, and they blend in.
Leadership is all about how you inspire, motivate, drive and adapt your style according to the situation. If you can’t do that, you are not a good leader.