Four New Leadership Types Found in the Most Unlikely Place


No matter where I go, I can’t help notice people leading. It’s fascinating because you can find leaders just about anywhere. However, I wasn’t expecting to see such a blossoming petri dish of leadership during, of all things, a large family reunion at a popular Lake Superior lodge. Specifically, I observed four leadership types.

What I loved most was that my Family Reunion Leaders did not conveniently fit any expected mold, i.e. project managers or executives by trade. They were retirees, health care workers, stay-at-home parents, surgeons, bankers, clergy, scholars, bloggers, technology managers, even some of the kids emerged as leaders. They came from the two coasts and everywhere in between. They were all ages, spanning four generations.

Below are my Top Four Anywhere-You-Go Leadership Types, observed at my family reunion:

Orchestrators: There were handful of people who were keen to the need for organization. Group picture-taking, group dinners, group excursions, group anything. They have a particular skill for detail, lists, schedules and living out the exact experience for people in advance so they know what to do, where to be and when. They thrive on “herding cats.” They drove up to the resort area and made sure the grocery store they recommended was, in fact, a decent grocery store. They rented a van and planned daily excursions complete with maps. They made the drive from the airport during rush hour to make sure three hours wasn’t actually five hours. Who located a gently sloping area in advance, and then arranged 70 frolicking family members for several group photos? Orchestrator. Of course, they aren’t perfect, and couldn’t possibly think of everything. Enter the Pinch Hitters.

Pinch Hitters: Pinch Hitters love filling holes and think well on the fly. You can’t fit everybody in the van? No problem, they found the people with cars and specified who will follow who. Kids don’t like the dinner buffet? “Let’s go ask the restaurant if they can whip up some chicken fingers and hot dogs.” People still aren’t tired after a day of activity and dinner until 9:30 p.m.? “Come on over to our place for drinks and Olympics!” You get the point. Pinch Hitters magically, effectively think of just the right thing, when you need it most.

Tone Setters: A more subtle, but still critical leader is the Tone Setter. In our case, the family is lucky to have two nationally known members of clergy in the ranks, one of which started the week gathering folks together and stated a common way for us to think of our valuable time together. This obviously carried through everything we did. It was a bit like a company having “core values” or something that sets the tone for how we will interact. Tone setters stay behind the scenes, speak well, and have a natural way to articulate a message everybody can rally around or be inspired by. Tone setters can also be absent, but still set the tone. Like, one family member who couldn’t attend requested and provided financial help for us to gather for dinner as often as possible as an entire group. She didn’t want us all split up. And so we did the first couple nights, and it made a huge difference to everyone feeling and remaining connected throughout the week.

Magnets: These are the people you can’t explain why, but gradually they become the hub of activity. By the end of our week together, there emerged a “place to be” or two and that was with the magnets. They somehow created an atmosphere of welcome, kindness, trust and most importantly, fun. What was happening today? The magnets knew. Where is Aunt So and So? The magnets knew. They had people in and out of their cabin from early morning to late at night eating, chatting and watching the Olympics. Their door was always open, literally. Their kids started games outside, and soon all the kids herded around with them here and there like a swarm the entire week. These are your “informal, organic, bottom up” leaders in companies. They carry great influence, put people at ease and should never be underestimated.

This experience reminded me of a core belief, and that is that everyone has unique leadership skills. Everyone. Helping others find their unique leadership qualities and empowering them to act will inspire in the workplace. If you’re able to assemble a great team with this balance and leadership diversity, even better.

Which one are you? Do you play different roles depending on the situation? Should you expect a true leader to have all these capabilities?


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