June 6, 2013

The Iconic Leader: Stage 4 of 5 in the Leadership Tonic Scale

The Leadership Tonic Scale identifies and defines five types of leadership styles found in today’s organization. This is the fourth of those five types. Come back and visit each day during the week of June 3, 2013 to find out the next leadership type as depicted in the Leadership Tonic Scale.


The Iconic Leader

The Iconic Leader is a gem, and one notch away from our final leader definition on the Leadership Tonic Scale. What is an icon? In this case we’re not referring to religious paintings as it was first defined. Typically in our modern day we think of icons as those who have demonstrated excellence over a period of time. There are sporting icons, author icons, acting icons … and of course there are leadership icons. Thus, if we want to achieve the final stage of the Leadership Tonic Scale, we must assess what makes leadership icons iconic.

Iconic leadership is not about perfection. As Winston Churchill once said (an example of Iconic Leadership) “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” It is about the repeatable and demonstrable act of delivering on your actions such that we mere mortals can learn from the consistent behaviour they have maintained. The aforementioned Churchill taught us about resiliency, Gandhi taught us compassion, Mother Theresa demonstrated humility, Steve Jobs was uber innovative (despite other flaws mentioned earlier) and Hillary Clinton was and is both patient and a tireless negotiator.

What More to Know:

  • Don’t set your sights on becoming an Iconic Leader – that’s something a Moronic Leader would do
  • Start reading autobiographies and glean what you can from those that have changed the world but don’t limit yourself to a singular genre
  • Cherry pick some of the traits, skills and behaviours that are suitable to your situation and career path and try to embed into your own leadership style over time

An icon that changed the game of authoring — and in particular educating her audience, young children, to think differently — was Astrid Lindgren. Pippi Longstocking, the character she brought to life in 1945 with equal parts untidiness, cleverness, noisiness, independence and creativity encouraged children to think differently, to explore and to seek out adventure and freedom. Back in the day it was radical. But that’s what we should be drawing upon as we analyze (and mentally ingest) the characteristics of an Iconic Leader.



NB: the Leadership Tonic Scale does get better from here. What’s the next stage? Although I didn’t include the Leadership Tonic Scale in my book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization, you may be interested in Chapters 4-6 (The Connected Leader) and Chapter 7 (The Participative Leader Framework) in particular as they help to depict what I believe are the key ingredients to 21st century leadership. The entire Leadership Tonic Scale will be released on June 10th as a free downloadable paper.

UPDATE: The Leadership Tonic Scale downloadable PDF is now available.
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