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The Art of Leadership

By Atip Muangsuwan

“Don’t just follow what leadership gurus teach you to do. Use your wisdom with contextual awareness to decide what to do and how to do it yourself.”

Atip Muangsuwan

Recently, I saw a leadership quote, “Leaders don’t command” appearing somewhere on the internet.

However, from my perspective, “Leaders can command, too!”, depending on the circumstances, situations or contexts they’re in.  

The quote states… “Leaders don’t command” because it only advocates the “facilitative approach” to be applied in leadership.

However, the “authoritative approach” can be useful in several circumstances, situations or contexts, too! For example, in the military or police command lines, in life-or-death situations, and in emergency cases like fire-fighting and evacuations, earthquakes or tsunami evacuations, these require the “authoritative approach” from leaders to direct their commands for effective and efficient executions and outcomes.

I’ve found a very useful and meaningful model which I’ve always been using in my coaching supervision practice that can also be useful for applying into leadership strategies and approaches. It is called, “Heron’s Six Categories of Intervention” which was invented by John Heron, a social scientist in 1975. Based on studies in counseling, his categories became widely used to study and train health, education and helping professionals.

Heron’s model has two major categories or styles; that is, “authoritative” and “facilitative”. These two major categories break down into a total of six categories to describe how people intervene when helping.

Authoritative Interventions

They are:

  1. Prescriptive – You explicitly direct the person you are helping by giving advice and direction. For this intervention, you give advice and guidance. You tell the other person how they should behave. You tell them what to do.
  2. Informative – You provide information to instruct and guide the other person. You give your view and experience. You explain the background and principles. You help the other person get a better understanding of things and/or themselves.
  3. Confronting – You challenge the other person’s behavior and/or attitude. You challenge the other person’s thinking. You play back exactly what the person has said or done. You tell them what you think is holding them back. You help them avoid making the same mistake again. Not to be confused with aggressive confrontation, “confronting” is positive and constructive. It helps the other person consider behavior and attitude of which they would otherwise be unaware (their blind spot)

Facilitative Interventions

They are:

  1. Cathartic – You help the other person to express and overcome thoughts or emotions that they have not previously confronted. You help them to discharge or release painful emotions such as grief, fear or anger.
  2. Catalytic – You help the other person reflect, discover and learn for themselves. This helps them to become more self-directed in making decisions, solving problems and so on. You ask questions to encourage new thinking or reframing. You encourage the other person to generate new options and solutions. You listen, summarize and reflect back to them. So, basically speaking, “Catalytic” intervention is the so-called, “Coaching”.
  3. Supportive – You build up the confidence of the other person by focusing on their competences, strengths, qualities and achievements. You tell them what you value them (their contribution, good intention or achievements). You praise them. You show them they have your support and commitment.

I believe that leaders can also make use of Heron’s model in their leadership approaches and interventions if they wish to become the effective and powerful leaders.

Leaders can pick and choose which one of the Heron’s interventions that they think and feel most appropriate for their contexts. That’s why leaders need to use their own wisdom and contextual awareness to decide which intervention is more appropriate for which of their contexts.

“Leaders need to use their wisdom in considering based on each individual’s style and personality (of their people), the specific situation or circumstance, the place and time in order to apply the right intervention. So, the right intervention will largely depend on the right person, the right situation, the right place and the right time in which the specific intervention is applied to.” This is called, “The Art of Leadership”.  

That’s why I wrote in the beginning that, “Leaders can command, too!”. This fits into the “prescriptive” intervention based on Heron’s model.

In conclusion, effective and influential leaders need to use their contextual awareness and their own wisdom before attempting to apply any approach or intervention to lead people. This is “The Art of Leadership”.

The Art of Leadership comes from utilizing your own wisdom to lead. Leadership is an art because it emerges from one’s own wisdom.

Don’t just wholeheartedly follow what leadership gurus teach or advise you to do because they just use the prescriptive and informative intervention only. It is as if… they command you not to command people or they prescribe you not to prescribe people to do things.

Leadership goes beyond science. That’s why… “Leadership is an Art”. The Art of Leadership. 

If you’re interested in getting my coaching support on mastering “The Art of Leadership” by evoking your own wisdom to lead, then let’s talk!