Modern leadership relies on more than one theory

Leaders today do not necessarily fall under one well-known concept or theory of leadership and instead demonstrate characteristics from more than one major theory and the result is a fantastic one. JLG is the general manager of a medium-sized multimedia production company. He is the quintessential example of a leader who possesses traits and skills from two major theories to studying leadership—the traits approach and the skills approach.

An example of a time JLG demonstrated all three intelligences and three skills concepts was when he was faced with being short a camera for a long shoot and he was able to trade the use of another company’s camera on a day when they would be short one. JLG was quick to think of a solution and used his street smarts to parlay a risk of being without a camera into gaining a camera with only the return of a favor in exchange. This also demonstrates the skills JLG possesses as described in the skills approach to studying leadership above. He has an arsenal of knowledge and skills on how to use technical equipment, hardware, software, cameras, and video cameras. He was able to determine the type of camera he would need in order to get the job done and determine where he could acquire a camera of that caliber. He was also able to use his human or people skills to talk to his competitor and wheel and deal the use of one of their cameras in exchange for using one from JLG’s company later that week when JLG knew the other company would be short. This demonstrates conceptual intelligence because it is not common for competitors to do each other favors, but JLG had the traits and skills required to make the agreement work.

According to Peter Northouse (2018), “[t]he trait approach was one of the first systematic attempts to study leadership.” Northouse also argues leadership traits were studied because they were deemed the reason some people were great leaders. It was believed that people were born with these traits and only “great” people possessed them. A major component of the trait approach is the intelligence traits of which there are three: analytical, practical, and creative. According to Pennsylvania State University Canvas Online Learning Course Content Module in course PSY 532 – Foundations in Leadership the three intelligences can be described as:

Analytic intelligence can be described as “[g]eneral problem-solving ability, and it can be assessed using standardized mental ability tests. People with analytical intelligence usually do well in school and make accurate assumptions in unfamiliar situations. (Course Module Content Lesson 2).

Practical intelligence can be described as “’[s]treet smarts’ that allows people to know how to adapt to, shape, or select new situations in order to get their needs met.” Practical intelligence can also be understood as a type of ‘common sense’ and it is “highly influenced by a person’s life experiences” (Course Module Content Lesson 2). Leaders with practical intelligence use past experiences to make decisions and solve problems.

Creative intelligence can be described as “[t]he ability to produce ideas and behaviors that are new and useful” (Course Module Content Lesson 2).

The skills approach, according to the Foundations in Leadership course content, suggests that “[l]eaders must possess certain abilities that allow them to act as a leader. These abilities are not traits but rather sets of behaviors that allow them to appropriately react to certain types of situations.” Three skills in this theory are technical, human, and conceptual. The course module content in Lesson 3 describes them as:

Technical: This set of skills includes knowledge and ability to use the tools and processes of the organization. This is what you would call “hands on” type of skills.

Human: This set of skills is the ability to work with people, and as such is referred to as “people skills” in everyday language. It is the ability to recognize when people are experiencing stress.

Conceptual: This set of skills is about ideas. This is the least tangible of the three skill sets as it is about thought processes. An example of this type of skill would be the ability to create a clear mission statement that helps the organization move forward.

For the analysis of JLG as a leader it is important we are familiar with these concepts and approaches to studying leadership. Each of the intelligences described in the traits approach is complemented by the three concepts in the skills approach. Analytical intelligence and technical skills lend to each other well because they are concerned with talent to solve issues. The same can be said for practical intelligence and human skills which often rely on personal experience. Finally, because they are more concerned with talent in conceptualizing, creative intelligence and conceptual skills are also relatable and complement each other well.




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